For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wrestling with what I’m about to write, it’s important to know that. It matters because there are times when I just sit down and write what’s on my mind without much filtering. This one though is different and I think I know why.
I’m a pot stirrer, or at least I can be. Sometimes, just for the sheer joy of it, I’ll introduce a topic into conversation that I know will cause a heated discussion. Religion, Politics and Sports are of course the easiest ways to get the ball rolling, and I find myself sitting in a group that I know has varying opinions and hitting that one spot and then feeding the flames. Childish, of course it is, but fun at times none the less.
I also love a good discussion and many times in my stirring the pot to start trouble I am also getting to know the people I’m with, building a deeper relationship, learning and growing in my understanding of who they are, why they act and do some of what they do, and ultimately building on my ability to be a better minister to them in the long run. I know that may sound like justification, and perhaps it is a little bit but it’s also accurate.
In a very elementary way Christians divide people into manageable categories. There are categories for people in the club and then categories for people out of the club. In the club there are all these different denominations, each with it’s own set of rules and regulations for getting to God. Christians themselves usually fall into two different camps. Fundamental (conservative, traditional) or Progressive (social, liberal). It is in these categories that Christians make the rules about how they interact with each other, each side looking down their noses at the other. It is in these categories that causes are fought for, be it inclusion, tolerance (a word that I feel should be banned from any and every church liberal or conservative) proper forms of worship, liturgy or lack there of, the social aspects of the Gospel, science and scripture, God’s gender pronouns, first amendment rights, second amendment rights, Jesus political party, making America great again, realizing that America is pretty great…the list is endless.
The problem is our causes don’t stop there, they bleed through to the other group of people that we categorize. The WORLD, fundamentalists tend to want to keep the world out there, progressives are more apt to let the world in. You can find exceptions on both sides but I’m talking in generalizations here.
Whenever the church, either side, interacts with the outside world we tend to do so in response to some cause, and many times even our outreach when tragedy strikes, has strings attached, though we are not so keen to admit it.
Recent causes the church has fought…
- The Bathroom Wars
- The Cake Wars
- The Political Wars
- God is a right wing republican just look at the Old Testament
- God is a left wing liberal just look at the New Testament
- The Health Care wars
- The Gun Control wars
- The race wars (Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter and to our shame a few idiots who set up a White lives matter protest)
I’m positive there are more, many more that I’m leaving out, mainly because I’m tired.
Christians in general owe a huge apology to The WORLD…mainly because we are failing it. Churches and Pastors and Christians are not called on to Make America Great again, it’s not our job to safe guard freedom of religion, prayer in schools, or my right to own a billion round semi automatic weapon designed to kill people. It’s not our job to convict a person of their sin, or decide who we let in to our churches because we like them and who we keep out because they make us uncomfortable. It’s not our job to interpret the constitution and laws of the land, to mandate that people in Christendom that don’t see it our way get out of the dark ages and start seeing things our way…we have enough on our plate interpreting scripture and what it meant in the past and what it means today.
Our job is not to take up all of these different causes, but to live our lives in service to one cause…the cause of Christ.
That sums it up, the problem is we confuse what the gospel is. There is a huge difference between the Gospel and The rules as we see them. We want people to start following our rules before they put their piece on the board. To that end christians, grab bull horns and head out to college campuses and start yelling at people about how bad they are. They stand next to political candidates and endorse them because they don’t like the other side, they call down fire from heaven (or attempt to) on entire people groups. They use “fear to keep the local systems in line,” because it’s easier to motivate from fear than it is to reach out and touch in love. One allows me to keep my distance, the other demands interaction. If I can take over the work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life, I can mold them into the type of person that I would want to interact with. I can remove the things that bother me, and replace them with the things that are important and matter as I interpret them.
See while the cause of Christ isn’t that hard to understand, the causes we fight for are easier to deal with, it’s easier to make signs, to protest, to legislate, to hold town meetings discussing the issue, than it is to set aside time to pray for, build relationship with, and serve without the visible rewards. When I stand up for a cause and protest, everyone sees me, when I go to my private place and pray for people, not causes, no one knows how great I am, how important I am, how committed I am. When I hold a candle light vigil my spirituality is evident to all around, when I walk into the hospice facility and sit with a person with dementia, or go to the local jail to visit a person that I may not know but that hasn’t had a visit in who knows how long, and just listen, no one can pat me on the back. When I endorse a candidate I can bask in the glow and get more hits to my blog or social media account, when I sit down with a person of a different faith and build a relationship with that person, talk to that person, struggle to understand and stand with them, people may say that I’m compromising my convictions. The cause of Christ by necessity diminishes who I want to be, and magnifies the one that lives in me. It’s hard to become less so that he can become more, but that’s what we signed up for, or it’s what we were supposed to sign up for. As He becomes more the causes we find ourselves in will take on a new significance. We will begin to see the individuals instead of the cause itself, and in seeing the individuals through the eyes of Christ we will realize that it’s not the cause that matters but the person that is hurting, crying out for something more, something tangible, something that makes a difference today but that will sustain them tomorrow and the next day.