I have been thinking so much lately about who we are… us. You and me.
Together, I think we are making a difference in the world—I really do.
I have seen so many both on my side of the world and yours decrying God’s people on the North American continent. Sentiments like, “Wake up American Church!” or, “They (the church in North America) just don’t get it.” As though the church on that side of the ocean is in some kind of deep self-indulgent slumber, or that they simply intentionally are ignorant to the needs of others, or worse, they know but just don’t care.
[A moment of brutal honesty] I was “that guy”. I really felt this way for a long time. I said these things. Even as a pastor of a North American church, I said it as matter-of-factly as possible and even “yelled” at my own church for not caring. [brutal honesty over (but not)]
As time has passed for me, and as a bit of perspective has entered into my life, I have realized that, while yes, there are challenges in the church all over the world, the accusation that is very hard to level at her is that she doesn’t care.
She cares, we care, but a lot of times we simply don’t know what to do, or how to care. It is no longer simple, in our current culture to know just how to care. I sat down with one of my mentors, a man I owe a debt of gratitude of which a lifetime may never repay. A man who single handedly restored my faith in the beauty of the church by simply taking up the Jesus life and inviting me to see through his life what that means. As we sat together, I told him how my heart broke for the LGBT community, how I simply did and do not fully know how to approach them, show them the love that I am certain Jesus would. How human rights matter, and that they are human. How it was hard for me to see my brothers and sisters in Jesus decry Caitlyn, and others just like her, when I just couldn’t see Jesus doing that. We talked about justice, and doing the right thing—how hard that is.
It is a daily struggle for me to walk out my gate and see the overwhelming need, and tow the line between weepy mess and jerk. Weepy mess cause, man, there are so many needs I wanna help with and I never know how to choose or if, when I do choose, I chose correctly. And jerk, because it is my bad coping mechanism for just being overwhelmed by the needs and wanting to be able to label “them” something, anything to justify my walking by. At a glimpse, there are times you could label me a blatant violator of “When Helping Hurts” or, at other times, another example of an uncaring churchgoer. The truth is, sometimes I do violate better judgment on justice issues, and sometimes I do walk by people who I probably shouldn’t… but the other truth is: JUST LIKE YOU, I care. I just don’t always have a good answer about how to care.
So here’s the deal: I am asking you to stand up with me. Let’s do this: Let’s offer each other grace, try our best, learn from our mistakes and do better next time. This means leaving behind the judgmental eye, and taking up the empathetic spirit that says, “she’s trying to get it right as much as I am, but, like me, she is flawed.”
What would this look like? What would this mean for our outlook on the church? What would it mean for us to say, “they act really differently than I, but I know that they are trying.” I think that there is a lot of space for grace. I think that everything does not have to be an emphasis on what we are getting right and what “they” are getting wrong.
I really believe that we (me included), as the church of North America care. I really think we are making a difference in the world as we earnestly try, and sometimes stumble, to make a difference. I also think it is fair to say that our judgmental attitude and our lofty platitudes are the wall that stands between where we are now and where we could be, in terms of sweeping global change for the Kingdom of God. [I am not saying don’t evaluate what others are doing… not even saying not to have an open dialogue about that, but I am saying that there is a ton of space between earnest dialogue of someone seeking to do what’s right and the kind of self-righteous venom that far too often accompanies said dialogue.]