I don't talk about it often in the public arena, but a few years ago I had a major breakup with the church and the Christian machine. It wasn't as if there was one incident that led me to feel betrayed by the Body of Christ- but rather a litany of tiny beliefs, circumstances, and actions that began to push me away. I was rather confused at incongruences with what I saw JESUS DO versus what I saw the Church do. Eventually, the confusion led to bitterness, and the bitterness turned to both resentment and anger.
I don't think that I'm alone in this. It seems that every person I speak to is going through a transformation of the faith and, in some instances, leaving it. They're not just leaving their churches. They're also leaving God. They're not just putting off the label of being a Christian; they're also denying Christ. Of course, it's not always that extreme. Rather, the people who find themselves frustrated, confused, and angry often demonstrate their feelings in other ways. Most often with passivity, avoidance, and apathy. Churches have begun to wonder why they feel dead, and I think that at times -- this has something to do with it.
When congregants are wounded, the Body is wounded. And when we deny healing to those parts, we limit the capacity of the Kingdom.
For those that have been hurt by the Church, the wound goes deep. For me, at least -- because I had taken great pride in the community I had chosen and the pastor I followed and the people I bound myself too, I didn't realize that my identity had become them. I had wrapped my belief and my motivation tightly around the organization and the system. And so, when the evidence compounded against them with no explanation or change, both my purpose and my identity fell apart at the seams. I don't think we realize we're doing it. It's unintentional. But eventually, if we aren't careful - we began to idealize the house and the people who lead it. Tragically, we allow our idealization to become that which directs our thoughts of God and His character.
Now, on the other side -- I think what really breaks my heart is seeing how we, both Believers and the rest of the world included, allow the imperfect Body to be the final word on how we see the perfect God and Christ. We seem to think that an untrue Christian has the power to make God's word less true. Crazy, isn't it?
Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but I think what we all really want, is the real thing. We're tired of disparity and disunity, and we're tired of walking pharisees living out less than holy intentions. We're tired of fake people pretending to have it all together. And, we're tired for the call to be vulnerable when the supposed safe landing place is daggered with judgement and consequence, not understanding and grace. Let me clarify something here -- the real thing doesn't mean that we'll always agree. Or, that there isn't sin that needs to be called out. However, it means that we give time and space and relationship to those things that are confusing, that don't make sense, and that seem to not line up. It means having hard conversations with each other and being comfortable with not having all the answers.
I'll tell you this - while I'm not against movements and hashtags and unifying under specific and real problems,these are not the banners we should be living for. Not as believers, anyways. The real thing is believing that it's not the body of people that can fix what's broken - but the head that leads it. The church you are going to, the pastor who heads it, the small group you attend, the protest you march in, or the denomination that you're certain has it right - these aren't the real thing. The real thing is Jesus. I know that we want to believe that the world we're living in isn't that simple. And yes, there are times (so many times) where we have the mandate to speak up for the marginalized and the broken and the weary. After all, this is our call as believers (because if Christ did it, then so should we). However, the problem that comes from these well-intended organizations and movements is that again, they become us. We begin to lead people to us, to our cause, to our church, and to our beliefs - instead of leading them to Christ.
We become so distracted by ourselves. We want our voices heard and our stories known. We want other people's voices heard and their stories known. We think that this is how people get saved. And, I guess I wonder if we're out to save others for themselves, or for God? And I wonder if we've realize we've turned people into their own personal saviors, instead of pointing them to the Savior?
As long as we make it more about us, and less about God -- WE JUST AREN'T GOING TO GET ANYWHERE. Instead of unity, we'll become more and more disintegrated. Instead of healing, we'll see ourselves become more broken and fractured. We cannot fix ourselves. Only God can.
I guess I'm just saying, maybe it is this simple: spending less time focusing on what we each have to say for ourselves and more time on what God actually demonstrated to us about Himself. This is where the healing is. And this is where the Kingdom doesn't just expand and flourish, but the Body of Christ becomes whole.
In the meantime, here's what we can do. We can point to the cross and to Christ incessantly. We can look less at what makes us different, and declare over and over again what makes us the same. We can inspire revival under the banner of a God who saved us from ourselves. We can see the Body of Christ as an extension of God, but not make it responsible for what we ultimately believe about Him. We can advocate for those who don't have a voice not by lending them ours, but by lending them God's. We can find our identity in being God's, not being _______. Finally, we can show people what they are looking for. We can show them the real thing. We can show them a Savior who is working in us, through us, and for us. A Savior who supersedes all others in authenticity and vulnerability. A Savior who is perfect regardless of what others say or do. And, a Savior who doesn't need looking for because He's already come looking for us.