Church, We Must Repent!

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“…All people deserve to be seen for who they are: image-bearers of God.” – Max Lucado

I read this quote from Max Lucado earlier this week and it resonated deeply with me.

Mr. Lucado’s article and an internet conversation I had with an online friend motivated me to write this post. After watching a heartfelt admission of struggle from Grand Rapids pastor Chase Stancle, I reached out to my online friend to find out how she was doing and to let her know that I cared. Her response hit me.

“My biggest quarrel is with the church, my white evangelical brothers and sisters. I post a lot, but I think the real work is happening behind the scenes as I talk to my white sisters about how the church needs to repent of its own racism, and then lead the nation in repentance as well.”

Which brings me to a question. Does the white evangelical church truly believe that all people are created by God as equal image bearers of God? Truly?

Because I see judgement and condemnation, if not blatant hatred, for certain groups of people coming from many Christians. Are illegal immigrants, refuges, African Americans, and the LGBTQ community (among others) somehow less created by God? Do they bear less of God’s image?

I think not!!

And yet, that is how many people who call themselves Christ-followers act, speak, and share on social media.

This is wrong.

I know that as humans we tend to be afraid of things that are different. Of situations that we don’t understand. And fear makes us do stupid things. But that’s not an excuse for racism and hatred. We must repent.

As a society these days we are terribly good at putting ourselves and other people in boxes. We label everyone and then judge them accordingly. Differences are not tolerated.

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Before every mission trip I’ve ever taken, our leaders have sat us down and explained that different isn’t bad or wrong, it’s just different. They encourage us to be patient, listen, ask questions, and be flexible with the differences around us. If this is true on mission trips, why isn’t it true in real life?

What if the Church led the way?

Because we believe in the value of every human life. Because we know that Jesus died for the world. Because we have the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.

I wonder how much of our problems with racism and hatred stem from our religious versions of Christianity where correct behavior is elevated above people’s hearts? Where outward performance and conformity is rewarded, and where questions are dismissed? If people don’t dress right, or talk right, or look right, or act right, or believe right, then religious Christianity rejects, judges, and condemns. Many of us have been on the wrong side of this scenario and we know what it feels like.

What would it look like if the Church started to love with grace instead of judging with mistrust? What if we listened and asked questions? What if we explored differences with interest and flexibility? What if we stop assuming we are the right ones? (I’m not suggesting we give up on the cores truths of Historical Christianity, but we can believe and still listen while responding in love and grace.)

Friends, this is more than simply a behavior problem and we cannot fix ourselves. This is a deep heart problem and Jesus will do the work. But we need to repent. We need to dig into our hearts, admit our sinful pride, allow the Holy Spirit to sift through our beliefs and point out the ones that need to change. Then we need to agree with Him, and change our minds, and surrender to the change He wants to make in our hearts and lives.

We can do this, Church.

It takes brokenness and humility, but change is possible. Will you join me?

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A Plane Ride, Politics, and Pharisees

 

Full Disclosure: This is a rant which may mention politics. But it’s more than politics.

I spent the entire flight home talking with a beautiful woman named Patricia. She was sweet, kind, passionate, friendly, and liberal. Listening to Patricia, I was reminded again where Christians and the Conservative Right went wrong.

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Patricia loves people, but she doesn’t sense that love from conservatives. She was raised in a church but struggles to link Jesus with the people and politics that claim His name. I feel her pain.

Too often, Christian and political conservatives have one thing in common. Obsessed with morals and outward actions, they forget about people.

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Since when did “proper behavior” become more valuable than human beings? Or why are people only valuable when they look and act like “us?” Maybe this isn’t the way we feel, but too often this is the way conservative Christians come across.

Who gave Christians the job of being the “moral enforcers?” I thought our job was to preach the good news of Jesus to the world. Our relationship with Jesus should affect every area of our lives including our politics. But our primary job is not to “save our culture through moralism!”

I didn’t tell Patricia where I stood politically because I was hoping to talk to her about Jesus.

Isn’t that sad?

It’s gotten to the point where people hear “conservative” and immediately think about obnoxious, hate filled, “morality police” who wear the name Christian. Seriously guys, we can do better.

Do you know who the “enforcers of morals” were in Jesus’ time? The Pharisees. Do we really want to imitate them? In their obsession with outward behavior, they sort of missed God…and He was right in front them.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have morals. Or that it’s bad to believe in right and wrong. Jesus had morals. Jesus was clear about right and wrong. But Jesus also loved people, passionately. If you were to simply observe Jesus as He “ate and drank with sinners,” it might even look like He approved of them. There was no condemnation. Truth, yes. Guilt and pointing fingers, not so much.

Morals by themselves are empty. There are plenty of “good,” lost people out there. Cleaning someone up on the outside, making them follow your rules and standards, this does nothing to change the heart.

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Back to the Pharisees again…Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs”…they looked clean on the outside but inside were full of rotting corpses. Do we really want to emulate the Pharisees? I sure don’t! I want to be a Jesus follower.

The answer is not to become more liberal or progressive. The answer is Jesus. If we really get to know Him and see His heart, He will change us. Whatever our political beliefs, we will love with more passion and truth…truly caring about the people we meet and not just their outward actions.