I woke up this morning with thoughts flooding my mind, recounting conversations and stories I've heard, and articles I've read in the past 48 hours that has my heart hurting in a million little ways. These stories have triggered memories of other damaging words that my Church family has uttered that should never hear the light of day or the darkness of night.
"They rejected her because she has depression. She was a liability."
"He was seen in a photo with someone whose theology does not line up with scriptures. He is no longer trustworthy."
"Yes, you're a liar."
"You need to take responsibility for the sexual abuse. You invited it."
"Are you trying to steal my flock?" Huh?
"I heard they are a cult."
"Because you love the LGBTQ community, you are no longer worthy of being heard."
I could go on and unfortunately, on, and these are personal encounters and stories I've heard from my circle of friends. I'm sure there are heaps more like these accusations, rejections, judgment and self-righteous declarations. They are often wrapped up in what is seen as permission to judge our brother, call out heresy and hold each other accountable. I can't help but shake the sense we are standing here with blood on hands.
I remember sucking in air at the end of the Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. He was sharing about coming to the West after facing horrible persecution in China, thinking he would arrive to discover a vibrant Church. Instead, he discovered what he claimed was a greater persecution, the persecution of brother against brother. In China, what gave him courage and encouragement were his brothers and sisters in the faith. But, here, in the States, there was immediate skepticism, gossip, and slander.
Jesus talked about the state of our heart. Murder and adultery start in the heart of man. It wasn't the act of execution that was grounds for murder, but the thought alone. There are days I feel surrounded by skepticism that we have for one another. There seems to be a mistrust of motives when a sister offers to serve, judgment when someone is truly vulnerable and a quick finger to point out faults and well, our basic humanity.
"...and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6
This is one of my life verses. I cling to it as a reminder of just how I present to my Maker; A reminder of my position. It's not a verse I use to keep me in a place of victim and a state of "Woe is me", but rather in a posture of remembering just what His death on the cross meant for me. None of us are worthy, no not one.
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
What if we became known as a people who spoke blessings and not curses?
A people who believed the best in one another?
Children who firmly understood that their Dad was more than capable of judging hearts and motives, that it was His job, not ours?
What if we sought to call out the goodness we saw in others instead of focusing on their failures?
What if we lived from a place of believing that we are firmly on the same team, regardless of differing convictions?
What if we knew, with absolute faith, that our Father was capable of defending Himself and that He doesn't need us to change the hearts of those in our community?
What if we took seriously the commandments to Love God and Love One Another? What if this became the lens through which we viewed another? What if we worked hard to just follow these two seemingly simple commands and didn't try to fix everyone else?
What if we mastered bearing one another's burdens, instead of snubbing them?
What if we turned the other cheek?
Took the plank out of our own eye...
Encouraged and edified our sisters and brothers...
Prayed for one another.
Some of you may be thinking, "What about holding each other accountable?" Galations 6:1-5 says,
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load."
In this passage, I hear the caution to me, the reminder that the oneness is on me if I see a transgression in a brother. I must be gentle, watch out that I don't fall into sin; Perhaps the sin of judgement? I must bear my sister's burden with her, getting involved, sitting with her in the pain and heaviness. I should test my motives, making sure I don't think somehow I'm better than her or more righteous. I shouldn't boast of my awesomeness, but instead boast in my weakness, my nothingness, my need for a Savior.
Would you remind me of who I am? Would you hold your Holy Spirit mirror up to my life so that I can see and confess all that hinders me from knowing You and Your goodness? Would you help me to see my brothers and sisters the way You do? Let me see them as valuable, beautiful and worthy? Would you remind me that they are the family You gave me?
Thank you for choosing to enter into this mess, into our humanity. Create in me a clean heart and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Photo by @annie-spratt