Folks, I am feeling passionate tonight. And yes, a bit angry too. I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to be sitting here letting my fingers go wild over the keys. But I do know one thing – I can’t stand to let it all trapped inside of me. But neither am I sure I want an audience in something that I’m still feeling out, something I’m still mulling over and grappling with deep inside me. Basically, I’m saying that I’m scared I’m going to get judged for being so blunt, so vulnerable with what’s weighing on my heart but here goes…
I say I’m a Christian. I say I’m following Jesus. I say I want to be Jesus to those around me. But I’m here to tell you; I’m pretty sure I’ve been smearing that concept up so badly, it’s no longer recognizable as anything God-like. You see, I’ve been raised in a setting that tells me I should be separated; I should be cloistered away from the influences of the world around me. For a long time, I thought that was the only way to live righteously. The more I am out mingling with those other than my immediate family and church community, the more I realize that out there is where life is for real. Out there away from my sheltered mingling, is where Jesus is so desperately needed; where Jesus is lived.
In our sheltered little Mennonite box, we so quickly can start thinking that we don’t need Jesus quite so desperately. We think that we got this religion thing – you’re right, it becomes strictly religion at that point. That’s what so many churches have become – we worship religion, we don’t worship God and faith. We start marketing religion and we sour people to the name of Christianity because we leave faith behind in order to hold tight to our religion.
We can’t bring Jesus to others if we are leery of getting too close to them and if we’re worried that they will somehow contaminate us. I tremble at the concept that our church is somehow purer, somehow less sinful because we are conservative Mennonites. I sit in church on a Sunday morning and I wonder where the people are who are really in need of hearing about Jesus. So many of us sitting there in my church’s pews are ones who have grown up hearing the Bible read, hearing prayers going up to God.
And then I wonder if the people that Jesus wants us reaching out to were sitting beside me, would they feel welcomed, would they feel like they’ve come home to a community or would they feel judged just by the looks cast their way? I’m saddened by the fact and yes I’m frustrated that some of my non-Mennonite friends who are still on their journey to finding God, tell me that they could never come to my church because they know what people would say about them. They tell me that they need to have their act cleaned up before they can come to God, before they can come to church with me. Where do they get that idea from if not from those of us that call ourselves Christians? Aren’t we doing something wrong if others think they can’t come to God because they are too messed up? Shouldn’t we be looking at ourselves and asking what we as God’s messengers are misrepresenting?
Aren’t Mennonites as a whole doing something wrong if non-Christians think that just because we are Mennonite, we have a direct line to God? By sequestering ourselves in our little safe communities, we in essence thumb our noses at the people around us. Trust me, it was a whole lot easier sailing when I wasn’t out there in the real world being constantly challenged about what I believe and why I believe it. It’s so much easier just sticking with others that were raised the very same way I was that way I don’t have to think for myself but I can just go along with the majority and still be “okay”.
But that’s not why Jesus left us here on earth! We’re here to offer His power to others. We’re here to be His light, His love. But how can we do that if we sit in our tidy churches and cookie cutter communities and murmur how we are so glad we don’t have to face the sins that are out there in the world. If we’re not facing them, doesn’t that mean that we are stagnating in our own self-piety? If we sit with well polished shoes and clean hands and thank God that we are not like others around us, haven’t we become that Pharisee that Jesus condemned? Did He not praise the publican who came to church openly admitting that he is a sinner?
Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what is wrong with our churches if we aren’t attracting those who so desperately need to hear the love of God and need to be shown the forgiveness of Jesus? If there are no prostitutes, no drug addicts, no LGBTQs, no porn addicts, no drunks, no marginalized people crying out for help and stretching out their hands to us and coming to sit among us, are we really doing what Jesus is asking us to do and be? If we aren’t drawing lost people to look to Jesus, then we are failing Him. He wasn’t afraid to go against the organized religious leaders of His time and go sit among the “scum of the earth” like they called the people not accepted into their pious community. He was homeless. He allowed a prostitute to wash His feet. He allowed unclean people to reach out and touch Him – that means that He was okay with getting close enough for them to be able to reach out to them.
We open our doors wide open to Satan’s glee when we get so self-satisfied and think that we are the epitome of God’s people and we don’t have any contamination in our midst. Satan is the one who wants us to sequester ourselves and stay within our safe little circles – he gets more time on the stage that way. What are we THINKING??!? Where is our focus? On keeping our clothes and hands clean? Or on putting our arms around the forgotten, the lost, the shamed, the lonely, and yes even the filthy?
We don’t need to sit around and discuss the atrocities and the degeneration of the world around us – we need to get out there and fight it back. We don’t need to organize committees and boards and fundraisers – we need to get out there one by one and touch just one person’s life at a time. All we REALLY need to do is show up, be Jesus’ hands, hunker down and sit next to the hurting. So GO! Stop waiting for the blessing of the majority in your community – you’ve got God’s direction and his marching orders so what are you waiting for?!?