Color me confused

Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19 Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, ...

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Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, but there are some pieces that I like, just because I do. On a gut level, judging solely by emotion, something in them resonates with me.

But some pieces — well, it takes me back to my college honors humanities class, you know, the one at 1:00 in the afternoon during winter quarter, right after lunch, when the warm classroom and full stomach and last night’s all-nighter would catch up with me and I didn’t stand a chance. But on the rare occasion when I could stay awake, I was frustrated. How am I supposed to know that this author wrote his satirical essay in response to the politics of the day or that he composed this poem in response to the loss of his entire family to the plague? Why does a red hat have to mean anything besides that it’s a red hat? Did the author intend for all the symbolism we’re now studying, or is it just something made up by literature teachers everywhere?

In other words, I sure could’ve used a translator in that class. And that’s what I think occasionally as I stare at a piece of art, wondering what on earth qualified it to be placed in a museum. If you’re right there with me, don’t feel bad for your confusion or uncertainty. The art is simply speaking a language we don’t understand.

Language is designed to help us communicate, but sometimes it has the opposite effect.

Look back, all the way to the Tower of Babel, when God used language to separate us. In today’s high-tech society, global communication issues have been more or less solved, but in our towns, communities, schools, churches, and even on Facebook, language can be a giant barrier. Words of judgment, division, separation, accusation — of course those things push people away. But so do many innocuous-seeming words used by well-meaning, sincere believers.

On my walk… we must die daily… I’m broken… covered by the blood… I crucified my old man and put on my new man… feeding on the word… born again… I’ve been delivered… God has brought me to the Promised Land… I’ve been to the mountaintop… victory march… is she showing any fruit?

I confess, I’ve used Christianese myself. Sometimes the jargon just seems easier — it’s the shorthand we use among others who share our beliefs, simple phrases that communicate profound meanings. But here’s the danger: it can make other people feel like they’re not in the club. It becomes a tool for exclusion, not inclusion. Instead of sharing your testimony, you may have created a stumbling block, another way for someone to doubt their faith (I don’t know what she’s talking about; I’ve never felt that before; my faith must not be real or right; who are you to decide if I’m ‘saved’?).

As believers, we’re all looking at the same things: The same Bible. The same miracle-working God. The same Savior. But we’ve had different experiences. Different expectations. Different issues and prejudices and hurts and lives. Because of this, the same words won’t work for everyone — the one telling the story or the one listening. By all means, use whatever words you have to tell people about the wonderful God you serve. I’m not suggesting that you stop. But watch for eyes glazing over, people shifting in their chairs, glancing at their watches.

What people want — in art, in relationships, in their faith — is authenticity. Understanding. Connection. Something that will draw them in, not push them away. Something real, something true, something that will resonate with them at a gut level, way beyond intellectual understanding but with deep emotion. Something they can understand without a translator.

Prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian

This is a prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian.      For you, the one who flies under the radar. Who doesn’t cry persecution, or rejoice when another self-professed Christian trounces someone with his religion. Who doesn’t jump to conclusions or resort to petty name-calling and judgment. Who reads the Bible as a life-giving source ...

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This is a prayer for the non-controversial, invisible Christian.
     For you, the one who flies under the radar. Who doesn’t cry persecution, or rejoice when another self-professed Christian trounces someone with his religion. Who doesn’t jump to conclusions or resort to petty name-calling and judgment. Who reads the Bible as a life-giving source of sustenance and not as a weapon with which to bludgeon unbelievers.
     Who doesn’t even use the word “unbeliever.”
     Who prays, hopes, trusts, holds her tongue, and errs on the side of love. Always love.
     This is for the one who accepts those who are not like her and doesn’t let the differences threaten her own beliefs. The one whose faith is not diminished when faced with opposition. The one whose faith is, in fact, strengthened by different perspectives. The one who is never reactive, combative, hateful, or exclusionary.
     The one I want to be.
This is for you.

Dear Sweet and Gentle Lord,

Thank You for who You are. For being the God of the humble, the loving, and the generous. Oh, how You must grieve at the self-righteous anger, the vicious and vile words spewed across the Internet (and in person), the misguided and hurtful actions perpetrated by people using Your name. Your holy, lovely, truly righteous name.

Oh, Lord, forgive us all.

The hatred has gotten way too much attention, and the true beauty of this life has been overlooked. A life filled with You radiates beauty and goodness. It is saturated with peace and kindness.

Please, Lord, reach down to Your people. The ones who are quietly mourning the damage being done to Your name and to their faith. Reward them for their steadfastness by giving them an increasingly fulfilling, authentic experience with You. Whisper into their ears as they sleep peacefully at night. Nudge them, gently, when an opportunity to serve appears in front of them. Soothe their souls with fresh knowledge of Your magnaminous, all-consuming love.

Every day, renew their strength. Show them new heights of grace and new depths of generosity. Flood them with love, with an abundance of goodness and a sense of contentment beyond their wildest dreams. Let them feel You, see You, hear You, and know You. Shine so brightly into their lives that there will be no darkness left to be seen—anywhere. Radiate truth and goodness. Overflow their lives with Your Spirit, and let that be what the world knows of You. Reveal Yourself through the most humble and gentle of souls.

We want to see You. We want more of You, not the god (with a lower-case G) that some Christians are shouting about. We’re tired of shouting. We want the God who whispers and yet is mighty. The One who is holy. The One who saves lives, who redeems and doesn’t destroy. The One who is truly worthy of all that we have to offer. The One who is big enough, capable enough, and present enough to change us—and to change the world.

Lord, help me be true to You and not get caught in the opinions and troubles of the world. Let me hold on to the Truth. To the most gentle, wondrous One of all. Help me never, ever let go of You. Amen.

 

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