What are we really grieving?
Everyone—myself included—has been pretty incensed by the recent controversy over the religious freedom act (whichever side they fall on). I’ve felt deep in my soul a need to speak out. I’ve prayed. I’ve cried (sobbed, really).
And although my political beliefs fall on the losing side in this state of mine, and if you ask my opinion I’ll tell you, I really try not to use this as a public forum for anything political. (Don’t worry. I’m not defying that guideline even now.)
Sunday morning, we were in the middle of a typical worship service at my church. We began to sing a Brooklyn Tabernacle song called We Are United, which I’ve always liked just fine.
We are united in Jesus Christ
We are the soldiers of the light
We don’t wrestle flesh and blood
But principalities of the dark
We do our marching to one beat
Crushing the enemy under our feet
We are mighty in our stand
With God’s word in our hand
In our hearts we have a vision
We have made our decision
To show the Father’s love
With great power from above
Let us reach this generation
Every tribe and every nation
For we’ve overcome the world
By the blood of Christ The Lamb
The Lord our God is a sword and shield
We fight our battles on our knees
But on that day, I couldn’t even sing along. Because instead of this being an anthem of unity, a rally to strength and victory, all I could hear were fighting words.
And words of untruth. Because we, as Christians, are not united, no matter how much we wish we could say so. I stood there, tears streaming down my face, realizing that I was in mourning. Not because of the law. But because of all the things it has brought to light.
I can’t even find words to express how deeply my heart hurts from all of this. How appalled I am by the people who have latched onto this as a way to justify hateful behavior. How surprised I am by the number of Christians who are rejoicing in victory over persecution that I’ve never actually witnessed myself. The words in the law don’t see to overtly justify those things, but there’s so much conflict in the ways this has been interpreted. I’m not a legal scholar and I do not know the hearts of those who pushed this bill forward. I am not entirely sure what to believe, but the reality is that many (not all) Christians see this as a way to justify their disapproval of certain people (or, at least, certain behaviors). I don’t know if they are true, but I’ve seen stories about business owners already proudly refusing to serve gays. Again, it’s not necessarily the bill I’m objecting to. It’s how people are acting in response.
But our God is all about redemption—about rescuing, and putting to good use, those situations that, without Him, are otherwise hopeless. He can make something from nothing. Bring light to darkness. Show mercy. Offer forgiveness.
And as God’s people? We can do the same.
We can try to turn around this perception that the world has of us as hateful, closed-minded bigots. I’m not asking you to turn away from your deeply-held beliefs. Just asking us all to prayerfully consider the reasons behind our views. Hoping we’ll examine ourselves, our lives, and our words to see what kind of impression we’re giving the world about our faith.
Because let’s not kid ourselves, this one issue is only so provocative because it encompasses so many other ones. How do we feel about homosexuality? Can we love each other no matter what we believe? In what ways do different people identifying as Christians disagree with each other? When did our society stop allowing us to agree to disagree? Why is a difference of opinion now so divisive? When did disagreement begin to be synonymous with dislike of an individual? Can we apply the same label (Christianity) to our faith when there is such a disparity in what different segments believe? Is it still possible to strive for unity among believers? Shouldn’t we do it even if the Bible declares that many will “fall away”? Are Christians to set themselves apart or to associate with the broken, hurting, “non-holy”? Do Christians consider it freedom if a law can be used by a non-Christian as protection from a Christian? What is modern Christianity telling the world? Is there anyone out there who isn’t a Christian who would want to be one with all this crud going on? I think this is why people (myself included) are getting so riled up. It’s not just the bill. It’s that all the other things people disagree on are also coming to light.
So I’ll start by apologizing to anyone who has read my words on this topic and been offended. Working towards unity—among believers, yes, but also simply among people—has been my greatest goal and desire since the moment I “found” God as an adult. If I have done anything to divide people, that saddens me tremendously, and I sincerely ask for your forgiveness.
I really do believe, though, that as the body of Christ we’re not acting in a way that Christ would like. I believe if He were still walking on this earth He would be calling out our behavior, not that of the ones who authored this situation. That’s why Jesus has always been so controversial. Why it takes courage to accept Him and humility to begin to act like Him. Because He always shows us that we need to turn the pointing finger back to ourselves. And in the process, He brings healing. But not the way people expect. He heals bodies—but not until after He heals people’s souls.
Praying today—always—that Christ will heal this Body. But that first, He will heal our souls. That He will show us what we need. That He will soften our hearts with compassion. That He will plant a root of truth deep inside our hearts, where we cannot uproot it even with our natural stupidity and stubbornness. That He will demonstrate to us how the Church—as a single, unified Body—should behave. That He will remind us that even though we’re part of a Body, He comes to us as individuals by giving us the gift of a relationship. And that as individuals we have a responsibility to maintain and improve upon that relationship. And we can only do that with intention. Transparency. Humility. Respect.
Believing that He will place before us situations that we can redeem by building relationships with people around us, one on one. By letting people inside the facades we erect. By opening our hearts and allowing two-way discourse. By forging relationships based on His guiding principle—love.
Hoping that we can look at the larger issues and begin to reflect the very reasons we chose this faith.
Praying that we can behave in a way that reflects glory back to Him.
Because like it or not, we—as God’s people, and as residents of Indiana—are in the spotlight. The world’s spotlight hones in on controversy, but God’s spotlight always shines on truth. And God’s truth is full of kindness and grace and mercy.
Let’s redeem this. Let’s show the world what we’re really about. Let’s surprise them with our vulnerability and kindness. Let’s let people into our lives. Let’s make it so that they want to be there with us.
And let’s learn from this.