When I was younger and running away from Jesus, I would go to parties and do the stuff you do at parties. I distinctly remember one episode. I was in the middle of the hedonism and I stepped back for a moment—one of those times where you are keenly aware of who you are, what is going on around you, and the true nature of what is happening. And I remember the voice in my head, God or mine I don’t know, said, “This isn’t me.”
It makes total sense to some of you what I just said. But now let me share something personal that might confound most of you. I feel that way about the Church sometimes, too. For many years, decades really, I have wanted to leave the Church. The past few months, and especially this week, I have stepped back and said, “This isn’t me.”
What I am about to share with you…it is one of the biggest reasons why my generation and the generation after me is leaving or never entering the Church. Are “they” guilty of this topic, too. Yes. The Church in America is in trouble. The world is in trouble.
The Spirit has been leading me to this passage for a couple of weeks now. It is a response to my troubled spirit.
I have friends that cover the political spectrum and are Christian. I hear conversations and from time to time looked at Facebook/Twitter. I also listen and watch the news. I will say that I have been extremely disappointed by the words and behaviors of Christians and even the lack of common curtesy that is needed to maintain a democracy.
It is ugly out there. People are talking a lot…but it isn’t a conversation…it isn’t a dialogue. It is a monologue…it is a rant.
Labels. We are labeling one another left and right. Liberal. Fundamentalist. Evangelical. Gay. Christian. Muslim. Trump-supporter. Bernie-ite. Foreigner. Rich. Poor. Smart. Dumb. Blue-collar. White-collar. Addict. In Recovery. In one sense labels are unavoidable and even necessary. But what is happening now is that there is such stereotyping and prejudice that we’ve forgotten something. Actually, it is someone.
Behind the labels…there is a person in there. A person who is loved by God…a person who Jesus sees as valuable and precious…a person whom the Holy Spirit is wooing.
I was raised to see politics and Christianity from one particular angle. Over the years, my experiences and specifically the people I met changed both my politics and my faith. I guess I’m just different.
My friend, John, has a different political outlook than I…has it hurt my friendship with him. No way…he is a beautiful person. But some folks won’t look past his labels. Some folks won’t look past my labels.
In my disappointment with the Church, Spirit prompted me to the verse Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
And when I looked at all of 19, I saw a more complete picture of what I was supposed to share.
If we look at the beginning part of this psalm we see David talking about Nature. And Nature is proclaiming—speaking—the glory of the Lord. But how if there are no actual words? By living out the purpose for which it was created! God is in the heavens and sun and being proclaimed by them because they are fulfilling their God-given purpose.
The next part talks about the Law’s beauty and perfection. The Law reveals who God is because God has spoken through His Word. The Law holds a mirror to us and shows us our successes and our failings…our politics…our culture…our heart’s desires. And David says that there is no greater purpose in Man’s Life than to “take in” the Law.
And then the final verse, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
It has all come together in this. I look around today and realize in the words I am hearing and seeing…I am seeing the hearts of people. I am seeing what Christians, neighbors, and others are dwelling on. I see what they are feeding their soul with and what it is doing to their spirits, minds, and bodies. And then they spew it back into the world.
I know that I am not immune to any of this. I know that you are not immune from it. Hear me. Begin feeding your spirit something else. Take time to meet with God, sit with Him and still yourself before Him, hear. Meditate on His Word.
To live out our created purpose, we must be intentional about “taking in” the Word of God. Only then can we speak His truth. If we are to tell the glory of the Lord, we must be living out the purpose for which God created us. Our lives are to speak (I believe mostly without words) of the truth: everyone is beautiful to God and He loves them desperately.
O Most High and Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, perfect love, and deep humility. O Lord, give me sense and discernment in order to carry out your true and holy will. Amen. – Francis of Assisi
Jesus said that the kind of measuring stick you apply to others will be the same one applied to you. I’ll be blunt: if our method of judging is not love…we are lost. I want Jesus to judge me in a spirit of grace and love…I want him to see me as a person. Therefore, I must see others with a spirit of love and grace…as a person Jesus loves.
I want to conclude with my desire to leave the Church. In the past, I’ve tried. But it is impossible. Why? Because I cannot and will not leave Jesus. And if I’m in relationship with him, if I call Him, Lord, I am a part of the Church. So, I am a part of His Body, the Church. So, then, how ought I to live in the Church? I am to love Her, as Christ does. I am to call Her to living out Christ. I am to humbly see that I have issues to work on as well.
Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Let us be a people gathered by God to tell of His glory and love with our words and hearts. Amen.