In the past, I’ve been accused of this thing called “hypergrace”; of going overboard in such hot button areas as “acceptance” and “inclusion”. It was an accusation I backpedaled from for longer than I care to admit.
Now I gladly welcome the accusation.
Yes, I practice hypergrace. I suppose these days you’d call me a “snowflake”.
If I’m repeating myself, bear with me…I take this whole “love thy neighbor” thing pretty seriously, as if it were a scriptural truth or something. Funny how that works.
I posted the above meme on my FB Author page a while ago, and I’ve seen it posted among several others. I’ve also read some of the comments following these postings.
I’ve read the accusations of “not doing what’s best for our country”, and of “being selfish.”
And yet, since when did compassion become selfish?
When did courage or human rights become something other than the best for our country?
I’ve read the accusations that “snowflakes” only feel the way they do because of who they voted for. Or against. I’ve also read that only liberals feel this way, or that only conservatives are the heartless bastards who want to build walls and keep out refugees based on “religious preference.”
We’re not. They’re not.
The issues facing our country today go way beyond labels or voting records. And the ironic thing is, most of the issues truly facing us don’t even extend beyond our own borders. We’ve been really good lately at eating our own. We always have been.
No matter how many times I read that meme I’ve yet to find any particular party affiliation attached to it. Unconditional love is no more a Democratic concept than strength and service are Republican ones. This isn’t a political issue, it’s a heart issue.
No, that’s wrong. Actually, it’s a fear issue.
When it comes right down to it, pick your people group, whoever they are, and the vast majority of rhetoric spewed off against them will be rooted in fear. Fear with a capital FEAR.
Search yourself? If the choice of words from someone on the other side of an issue angers you, if someone else’s religious choice worries you, if someone else’s lifestyle choice makes you cringe, ask yourself, what are you really afraid of?
Now, go read 1 John 4:18.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Furthermore, quite honestly, none of the traits listed in that meme are strictly Christian values either, even though we’d sure like to think we’ve got the market cornered on ‘em. We give lip service to coming from a place of “peace that passes understanding” or of these elusive “fruits of the Spirit”, but I’m sorry, that’s not what the world is seeing. And yes, what the world sees matters, especially if we’re to take this whole Great Commission thing in Matthew 28 seriously.
There should be one place, one place, where all of us who are sick, wounded, hurt, grieved, addicted, neglected, alone, bullied, unwanted, or unloved should feel safe, heard, cared for, honored, and made holy, and that’s God’s house.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” ~ Mt. 11:28-30, NLT
The Old Testament made clear that God’s house was the tabernacle, then the temple, which today would mean the church building, the synagogue, the worship center, etc. But, on this side of the cross, Jesus has taken us who believe in Him so much further:
I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.. ~ Gal. 2:20, Message
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. ~ Romans 5:5, NLT
If we claim to follow this brown-skinned, Middle Eastern refugee named Jesus, we have become God’s house.
We carry with us the Holy Spirit.
We hold aloft the light of the world.
And we’re doing a crappy job of it.
People are either leaving the church in droves, or are so repelled by the words and actions of those who call themselves bearers of “truth”, that they vow never again to set foot inside. Even more, too many well-intentioned Christians are leaving this institution we call “church” in order to lose their religion and find God.
It matters. What we say. What we do. Matters.
There are too many lines drawn, too many labels attached, too much fear or hatred or pride or arrogance, and not enough hands held out in friendship, not enough shoulders to cry on, not enough arms to hold, not enough “ears to hear” in this thing we’re trying to pass off as “church” today.
You can say that all people are welcome all you want, but it’s a lie. It’s a feel-good answer that rings hollow to the very ones let in…but only so far.
You can come, but you can’t do _________.
You can warm a pew seat, but you can’t serve in _________.
You can attend, but you can’t participate.
No. They’re not.
The lines are still drawn, even in the church lobby.
It boils down to this: if people aren’t free to serve, to volunteer, to work, to minister with fellow believers within their selected congregation, then they aren’t really free to enter at all.
They aren’t welcome.
Again I ask, what are you afraid of?
Think of the most vile, despicable people you can, and ask yourself if they would be welcome in your church? Who are today’s “tax collectors and sinners”? And before you answer, remember this: Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. Regularly. He had a tax collector as one of his inner twelve disciples. In fact, it was a tax collector who wrote one of our four Gospels. (Hint: the one quoted above and the one with the Great Commission.) How welcome would he be in your church today? How about a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern refugee like the one we sing about every Sunday?
I can’t summarize the problem any better than author and friend Rachel Held Evans:
So many people fit right into church until… the divorce, the diagnosis, the miscarriage, the depression, someone comes out, someone asks a question, an uncomfortable truth is spoken out loud. And what they find is when they bring their pain or their doubt or their uncomfortable truth to church, someone immediately grabs it out of their hands to try to fix it, to try to make it go away. Bible verses are quoted. Assurances are given. Plans with ten steps and measurable results are made. With good intentions tinged with fear, Christians scour their inventory for a cure.
But, there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome. The thing about healing, as opposed to curing, is that it is relational. It takes time. It is inefficient, like a meandering river. Rarely does healing follow a straight or well-lit path. Rarely does it conform to our expectations or resolve in a timely manner. Walking with someone through grief, or through the process of reconciliation, requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route.
But, the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished – proof that this Jesus stuff works! ‘The world is watching,’ Christians like to say, ‘so let’s be on our best behavior and quickly hide the mess. Let’s throw up some before-and-after shots and roll the flashy footage of our miracle product blanching out every sign of dirt, hiding every sign of disease.
But, if the world is watching, we might as well tell the truth. And the truth is the church doesn’t offer a cure. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace. ~ From the book “Searching for Sunday: Loving, leaving, and finding the Church”