Despairing and Hoping for the Church
Sometimes I struggle with a Church culture that stands like a stone pillar with chicken companies and free speech, yet wilts when asked to stand with the marginalized.
I have such anger when I hear furious passion about political candidates (who work for a fading kingdom), but awkward silence when it comes to the unreached and the kingdom we are supposed to be working for. When voting is given higher priority than evangelism.
I fight bitterness when I see Christians pouring money into bass boats and huge campers and bigger houses and more cars – while children die of diarrhea and chronic not-enough. And how is it that so many have not yet heard the Gospel or have a scrap of Scripture in their language? Why do I keep hearing that we “don’t have the resources,” when the truth is, our resources are put to fading flowers and withering grass?
I struggle to love the rich as much as I love the poor, trying so desperately to remember that God’s love remains on both and that I am actually in the former category, not the latter.
I see lots of “family ministries” and yet still too many orphans among us. We are frightened of their imperfection, the scars and the trauma that might seep into our lives and complicate them. We declare adoption too expensive, yet buy our teenagers brand new vehicles or indulge in their designer fashions.
And I’m trying to repent of my frustration against all of us, but I cannot help but feel that this is holy and just anger. That you and I simply don’t care enough to rearrange our lives for the sake of others. I see it in myself as much as I see it in others.
But I see so much hope, Church.
I see a young mom who had bravely taken in a newborn not of her womb, malnourished and who may have developmental problems. I see her loving this child, with all his complications, just as she loves her biological son. I see her caring for the “least of these” in the most tangible, non-theoretical, loving way. She is courage embodied.
And I see a young teenager in a small town surrendering her entire life to the Lord, who has called her into missions. She is getting pats on the back and probably some sideways glances that she doesn’t see yet. She is a young life surrendered to obedience without knowing everything that will be asked of her – but still, she is saying, “Yes, Lord.”
I see a family selling their possessions and figuring out what they can do without in order to bring the Gospel to those who have never heard. They’ve realized that they will have to give an account for the stewardship of their money and possessions and blessing. And in their simplicity and generosity and hardship, they depend on the God who provides.
I see a young counselor who is throwing her life into working with sex-trafficking victims, showing them the redemption and New Life of her powerful Jesus.
I saw a teacher who prayed for and mentored his teenaged students before school, during lunch, and after school, shining the light of the Gospel into their clouded lives. He discipled me through the hardest years of my own young life and pointed me towards godliness.
My despair is greatest when I find myself, fists clinched, holding tightly to everything that I believe will bring me security. I look at the bank account and how many people care about me and what must they think of me?
It’s my belief that these things will give me a great life that is so, so wrong.
You find your life by losing it.
And if you’re intent on gaining the world, you’ll lose your soul.
So, Church, how can we live in this realm of hope that I keep catching glimpses of?
How can we abandon this American dream of getting more and being more and embrace a life that is lost-to-be-found?
Can you pour your life into someone?
Can you sell or downsize to invest in a better kingdom?
Can you open your home to a foster child, or an orphan, or a pregnant teenager whose parents kicked her out? Can you give up your life, your finances, your plans to embody the Gospel of Jesus to those who can’t imagine such grace?
It’s time to live out of the abundant grace we’ve been given.
What is He asking of you?
What other stories have you seen or heard that gives you hope for the Church? What else could we do to embody the Gospel in this world?