Some things are so complicated we feel like we would rather turn on our heels and run in the opposite direction than even attempt to dive in and digest them. Some issues have decades, in fact centuries, of wrong-doing and wrong-thinking attached to them, and so it seems impossible to separate fact from fallacy or truth from lies. Some things have roots so deep into the pits of sin and have wounded so many image bearers of God that we cannot even begin to understand them, much less figure out how to help those left in their wakes. Such things as racism or any other form of discrimination found in our broken world.
I had edifying conversations with a couple of friends in the last week that have led me to think I needed to be more clear in my last post. It is hard to cram every thought onto one page and even harder to make one’s thoughts clear in written form, when tone and body language have no voice. Sometimes, in standing firm on scripture, we can come across as imperious and brusque, when in reality, the pain of the subject of which we speak is very personal and very real. As Christians, we cannot allow feelings to drive us, but feelings do play a role in our experiences and perceptions. So feelings do need to be recognized in light of the truth, always in light of the truth, and I don’t think I did a bang up job of that last week.
In that post, I was speaking specifically to the church about the church. We are the redeemed and as Christ is changing us, we should look more and more like him. We should seek to point everyone to him in everything we do. Anything that comes into our lives, either to hurt us or to bring us joy, must be examined in light of scripture. If scripture says one thing and we are thinking another, our thought processes must change. If they do not, we need to ask harder questions, such as who is our God, our Creator or ourselves? And as our thought processes change, our feelings will begin to change too.
However, we live in a world that is anything but driven by the Word of God. We live in a world that currently follows the father of lies and until the Lord redeems all of creation, that will be the case. So this world hurts us. It traumatizes us. It makes us feel inadequate, insignificant, less than. Sometimes because of our socio-economic status. Sometimes because of our skin color. Sometimes because of our abilities or disabilities. But always because of sin. This world differentiates. This world separates. This world hates. And even though Christ has overcome this world, and he has redeemed us, the pain left behind remains. It diminishes significantly the longer we walk with him, but it’s still there, and it becomes a part of how God makes us who he wants us to be.
So that pain, those hurts, that trauma needs to be recognized for what it is. Even in church. Especially in church. It needs to be acknowledged. And when it isn’t, when it’s callously brushed aside as just another aspect of the fall (even though there is truth in that), we aren’t getting what we need from the people who are called to love us. We have to be willing to hear the pain before we can point people to Christ to heal the pain. We have to be willing to acknowledge the sin before we can point them to the one who died for that sin. And if we do that – when we do that – they will know we are different; we are the church.
So, everything we do in the church needs to be rooted in the truth of scripture and aimed at one goal: the gospel. Because, programs to diversify the local church body don’t heal. Swapping white pastors and black pastors on any given Sunday doesn’t heal. Eating ethnic foods doesn’t heal. Singing old gospel songs and hymns in other languages doesn’t heal. Reading books by authors of other ethnic backgrounds doesn’t heal. All of those things may fall in the category of helping us to understand and learn about different ethnic groups, and they may bring a sort of validation to any given group of people. But that validation is no more solid than building our identities on anything other than Christ. They won’t heal our hearts and they won’t root us in the truth of who we are because of Christ Jesus.
He alone can bring harmony among believers. He alone can define us. Christ. All He is and all he accomplished and all he does in us every second of every day. He alone heals us.