Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Friend of Sinners

This blog post by Jen Hatmaker moved the point where I wanted to stand up and shout, "Hallelujah!" It is a relief when someone can articulate all that's been stirring in your heart.

I grew up in the evangelical church.

I was taught that people would come to Jesus through friendship evangelism...which meant that they would see my clean living and want what I have. I can count on no hands the number of times someone approached me and asked about Jesus after observing my non-alcoholic, G-rated lifestyle.

I was taught that loving people meant, basically, that you got along with the loud-mouth in the next cubicle or you refrained from flipping off the guy who swerved into your lane without signaling. 

I was taught to stand up for righteousness. In other words, to vote Republican, call out sin, wage war against immorality in the world around me. Strangely, I've never known any attempt to keep people from sinning that resulted in someone actually being set free from sin.

I was taught that there is blessing in obedience. I was not taught, or at least not taught effectively, that often there is suffering, deep anguish, loss, and even death before the blessing, but that the blessing is far better because of it.

In my opinion, the church is ripe with disillusionment because of its focus on morality, to the detriment of everything else. We have become almost convinced that morality will save us, our families, and our country. Clearly, it will not. 

We are a people who shoot our wounded and blame the victim. There is little room to wrestle with matters of faith, to voice a dissenting view, to meld real life with dogma.

People who are hurt or confused don't need platitudes and certainly do not need blame. They need a safe place to struggle. They need to know that they are loved, above all, and that they don't even need to agree to belong. They matter and their fears, their doubts, their confusion, their sin do not make them inferior or weaker. They simply make them human.

In my own church, I often feel that all my questioning (and sometimes dissenting) is looked on as a sign of weakness or immaturity. It is tempting to pretend that I have it all together so that I can be seen as the 43 year-old woman that's been a Christian for 39 years, the former Bible college student, the Baptist middle school graduate, the pastor's daughter, the ardent seeker of Jesus that I am, instead of the weaker sister or thorn in the side that I am perceived to be.

But, I want to be a bridge. I want to put my struggles out there in hopes that my authenticity will resonate with someone and they will find a safe place to be human, themselves.

I think the American church is missing the point. 

It's time to stop focusing on ourselves and how "good" we can be. It's time we got off our moral high horse and got our hands dirty. It's time we started loving people because that's just who we are, and not because we want to change them or score another notch on our salvation belt.

It's time to live like Jesus. 

He is worthy of so much more than our watered down version of His gospel. He is Emmanuel. God with us...with us in our suffering, with us in our doubts, with us in our need, with us in our struggling. He is not watching from afar, waiting for us to screw up or needing us to please Him with our own efforts at holiness. 

He is here.

He is with us now...wanting to show hope through our hearts, wanting to shine light through our eyes, wanting to meet needs through our hands, wanting to share love through our lives.

He is a friend of sinners. Let's start there.


  1. What does that look like, in your eyes? What does it mean to live like Jesus?

    1. When I read the gospels, what strikes me most about Jesus is his ability to be interrupted with complete grace. I want to be so open to the will of the Father that the needs of others supersede my own agenda...that I see the needs in those around me & that I willingly pour out my life to meet those needs. I want to love the unloved. I want to speak the truth. I want to be so convinced of his love for me that I don't hesitate to share that love with others, no matter how far outside my comfort zone He takes me. What does it look like to you?

    2. Hmm, I'm not certain that I know. I am very good at loving on the hurting, whether "churched" or not but I also live a lot of my life in the little church bubble.
      We (the churched, a gross generalization, I know) often go on a little mission trip, help, and then resume our daily lives, usually as if nothing inside us has been changed- or only changed for a brief time.
      How do we incorporate living for Jesus into our daily lives? This is something that I struggle with often. How does my life look different every day than that of someone who does not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour?
      It just seems to me that so many times this is talked about within our churches and then most continue their lives with practical atheism.

    3. Practical atheism. So true. Practically speaking, I struggle with what it looks like, too. But, we are jumping in! We started with supporting others' special needs adoptions. Then, we adopted a son with Down syndrome. This week, we're assembling Easter bags to give to the homeless downtown. (Because everyone deserves a Cadbury egg for Easter!) This summer, I will make the effort to not just tolerate, but welcome the annoying neighbor girl from down the street whose mother is an absentee addict. (effort, indeed!) I am certain that we'll do a lot of dumb, misguided things, but we're praying about it a lot and asking Him to show us need, to see people with His eyes, to break our hearts with what breaks His.