Preface: I wrote this letter as a way to process through my own reaction to current events, and to process through my frustration and sadness of how the church is responding to and being portrayed in all of it. I have read this letter over to myself a few times since I wrote it earlier this week, and it is something that I need to hear myself, and I hope other find challenging and encouraging as well.
I get it. It seems like no matter what we (and by “we”, I mean the capital “C” Church that is made of up all denominations and people who have put their faith in Jesus and living out of that faith) do lately in America, we come out the losers. The cultural wars of the last couple of decades have increasingly built a divide between Christian America (ugh I hate that term) and everyone else.
And can we be honest, it has been a war. Maybe that wasn’t the idea, but that has been the outcome. Shouting matches, tactical political maneuvering, public take downs of prominent figures, etc… Its like an espionage thriller on the front page. Who is going to get the upper hand?
So I am writing this open letter with some suggestions (or pleas) to how we can exit this war, how we can stop obsessing about being right, getting our way, feeling like our society should be comfortable for us. This letter is to encourage us in who we are when we forget, and to maybe take some of the “social responsibility” off our backs and put it where it belongs.
1–Live where you live and stop looking for sweeping social change nationally. Being passionate about an issue, and wanting to see it changed, eradicated, or enacted on a national level is admirable, and maybe doable in some circumstances, but the place we can exert the most influence and change is the local level. The age of the megachurch has done real damage to the local church. Before you grab your megaphone, or your facebook news feed to rip on the President, or the Supreme Court, or congress, roll up your sleeves and do something about it locally. If the issue isn’t prominent where you live then find something that is, or move somewhere where your passions and your context more closely align.
2–Stop freaking out. I think this is good advice for everyone, but especially the Church, since we have the best reason not to freak out. We know/believe/trust that God is sovereign that he ordains all things, and that he works all things for the good of those who love Him, and for His glory. So God’s glory is not at risk, even in our jacked up world. HIS GLORY IS NOT AT RISK. So if something doesn’t go our way, or more people believe you are wrong than believe you are right, its ok. Our hope is not in being proved right but in seeing the glory of God and being changed. And we don’t add to God’s glory, nor can we take away from it. We only decide whether to live in the joy of knowing who He is, or running to something else, a lesser joy. In the craziness that has been american politics the last few weeks, I have been flipping between Romans 1 and John 16:33. If you are freaking out, I suggest you do the same. Don’t worry, He has got it.
3–Focus on sharing the gospel outwardly and fighting sin inwardly. What do I mean by that? Look, if we are going to try to kill sin in our culture, society, politics, etc…, we are going to lose. We are born into sin, everyone, and the only solution is Jesus. So fighting sin specifically outside of the Church is foolishness apart from proclaiming the Good New of Jesus. Where we can fight sin is in our faith communities, where we know the Gospel has taken root and God is completing the work He began in our hearts. So maybe stop telling people they are going to hell for being gay or having an abortion and tell them about the God who loves their broken hearts and wants so badly to put them back together. And maybe stop chanting against gay marriage in the streets and focus on raising up godly marriages in the church. I don’t know if you have looked at the statistics lately, but we really aren’t the authority on marriage that we think we are.
4–Humility. I don’t know when we decided that we were the morality police, that we could tell everyone what is right and wrong, and that if we aren’t listened to, or worse, rejected, that the world is all going to hell in a hand-basket, but that really has been more about our self-righteousness than genuine love for the people around us. Yes, by the grace of God, we have been given the holy spirit, which guides us in all truth and righteousness, but we can’t really take credit for that, nor can we really expect anyone else to want to listen to the Spirit when its not whispering the same truth to their soul. And if we are honest, I think most of us care more about people appreciating our point of view, our values, than we do about them knowing the God of the universe and experiencing the joy of a life given over to Him. Heck, half the time (and thats generous) we are battling the truth in our own hearts. And we know the truth! So maybe we should stop living like people that are in on some secret, or in the know, and start living like people who have been given the greatest gift, of which we are completely undeserving and for which we could never dream of earning or repaying.
5–Worship Jesus. This is of utmost importance. If we are not doing that, then are we being the Church at all? Abortion is still legal past 20 weeks? Worship Jesus who understands death better than us and loves those unborn children more than we ever could. “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” He’s got it. Worried that your religious freedoms are being taken away? Worship Jesus. In Him is the only true freedom; from sin and death. “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” He’s got it. Worried that moral decay is going to result in your kids being jacked up? Worship Jesus. He leads us to the true Father, the only one capable of healing our jacked up hearts and loving us perfectly as a father should. And we have been adopted by the Father, and are his sons and daughters, heirs with Christ. “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” He’s got it. Worried that the government is going to take over, that nothing we do will stem the dark tide of corruption, that our kids won’t be safe, our marriages won’t be recognized, our very selves will be under attack? Worship Jesus. “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” He’s got it.
If we do that, than all the hope, love, and joy that is supposed to mark us will and all of the cynicism, control, and shame-mongering that has marked us won’t stick anymore. So let us all calm down, and worship Jesus.
Fellow heir with Christ