Sometimes when you stop writing, it is hard to begin again. It’s physics. Just me, as a former engineer, I oughta know.
An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force.
I’ve been an object at rest. However contrary to that first rule, which also says that a body in motion will stay in motion at a constant speed, I did not use my blogging momentum to keep going and finish the race of the church series. I allowed myself to stop. I still aim to finish.
The world is loud and noisy…
- Men, women, and children are being killed by evil men in Iraq.
- There’s war in Israel.
- Depression has claimed the life of the beloved American actor, Robin Williams.
- People broke out in a social media war about depression and suicide.
- At the same time, Michael Brown was getting gunned down in Missouri, and media was largely silent for the first few days.
In light of all that is happening, speaking about church seems silly. As I have reflected about all the events, I began to wonder if adding my voice to the noise was really worthwhile or important. It’s funny how when you start to slow down, God sends messengers to remind you to keep going – a force enacted on the object if you will.
- People killing innocents is a church issue.
- Religious wars are a church issue.
- Knowing that people who have depression and mental illness feel like outcasts is a church issue.
- Knowing that they become hopeless is a church issue.
- Racism and white privilege is a church issue.
Jesus died so these things would end. If I am in Christ, I want to see an end to these things too, and I do.
- Is not the church a place of safety and refuge where we value life?
- Is not the church a place where we accept all people? those who are sick and those who suffer for long-term illnesses?
- Is not the church a place of hope where we can struggle together in our weaknesses?
- Is not the church a place where we accept all people? of every nation, tribe, and color?
If not, then why not?
- Why do the depressed feel lost in church?
- If there is no racism, then why is there still a “black quarters” in many small southern towns? like my hometown?
- If there is no white privilege, then why is my church and surrounding neighborhood, a middle class area, predominantly white?
- Why when I take a look at Birmingham, why do I find our city still segregated by race via our neighborhoods?
- Why is it that the poorest areas of my city are predominantly black?
- Why is it that they continue to war against one another, killing each other?
- Why is it so hard for the black man to get ahead?
- Praise Jesus, my church has hired a black man to be on staff, but why do we have just one on staff, when we are in a city that is mostly black?
- Why, O Church, are we not bringing healing to those who need it most?
Meanwhile, I am studying kingdom hospitality, and it is hitting me in the face that we have it all wrong. To be hospitable is to love a stranger. I keep thinking about how Jesus ate with the unexpected, the sinners, the outcasts, and about how he befriended these. He loved them, accepted them, and provided for them. His message of truth was easier to accept because these outcasts were known by Him. God does not want us to reach the least of these from a distance. Like Jesus, He wants us to get dirty. This means we need to be friends with people who are not like us. Not just people who think like we do or have beliefs like we do or have the same hobbies as we do or whose children are involved in the same activities as ours. No. It takes intentional effort to befriend those who are not the same as you and me.
The news headlines prove that we must be talking about the church, and the church must be addressing these issues. All throughout the Bible, God commands the Israelites to care for the outcast, to be hospitable to the alien.
The church cannot be a Pharisaical place of comfort for the rich man to set up shop, building his kingdoms and buildings, while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handbasket.
In the Jesus economy, outsiders were most welcome. Is our comfort and the cushiness of our buildings really important? What if the glammed up image drove the outsiders and outcasts away? What if holding church in a fine location actually hindered the ones we were trying to reach? What if, and I believe it is not, it is not really about our buildings anyway?
What if the church actually acted like a body even outside of a building? What if this body befriended and fed the broken? What if we gave hope to the hopeless? What if we actually stopped caring if it was safe for us or our children to be in certain neighborhoods and started living as if God is as powerful as He is?
As believers we have to speak up and make sure we fight against the evils that wage war on religious freedom. Jesus has already won the victory – don’t we see? He’s given us all the tools we need to fight religious battles.
We need to actively pursue the outcast – the depressed, the hopeless, the homosexual, those with special needs, those who are a different race than me, those who are tattooed, those who have pink hair, the foster kids, the orphans, and the list is long. Because who among us has not been an outcast for one reason or another?
When we keep having white friends and living in white neighborhoods and going to buildings with white church members and friending mostly Christians and making sure we all look the same, we’ve lost our way. This is in life and online – cause I don’t see my facebook groups being multicolored either. Lest you think I am preaching heavy at you, I am preaching to myself. I fall so short.
Until we begin to see how desperately we need Christ and how desperately the world outside of our spheres need Christ, nothing changes. Without Christ, I am just a clanging symbol and empty gong, and my words are meaningless, because without Christ, I cannot love.
When I go to the library, I see what I hope the church will one day be – a church that looks like the coat of many colors, with many-colored faces. I know I will see this church in heaven some day, but for now, it is my job to fight for her on earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” As the church, do we not offer more of what the world needs than the local library?
Now, it is time for me to make some new friends. What about you?
Image Credit: Purple Sherbet Photography