The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I've been in the church all my life and honestly, I've noticed a common trend: The deeper we are in to church culture, the further we are away from the real world. And the further we are away from the real world, we begin to see all kinds of arrogance, cruelty, and selfishness fester and grow.
Now make no mistake, this post isn't to trash on the church, not even close, I'm saying this because I dearly love the church and I want us to see the end of this and because I willingly am stating that I am very much part of the problem.
I've seen outstanding examples of selflessness, integrity, love and devotion within the church and I know people who I would trust with my life in an instant.
However, some of the cruelest, coldest and most inward focused people I've ever known claim to be my "brothers and sisters in Christ".
It's because of this, that I am posting for the first time in years on this dusty old blog that I made so so long ago.
Because I am afraid.
When unsaved people come to me and call me an arrogant, selfish, and intolerant bigot, I see how we as Christians treat the world around us, and I can't disagree.
I see how my fellow classmates here at Moody Bible Institute treat their classmates and jockey for attention and scramble for the spotlight.
And I look in the mirror and see how I treat those around me.
And I feel so hopeless that I want to hang my head and give up.
Because I feel like Paul when he described himself as "the chief of sinners".
We are so focused on what makes us happy, what we want, and what makes us feel good instead of actually seeing the world for what it is: a broken, cold, and hurting place that's screaming for a reason to keep existing.
Because of this, we only care about what keeps our happy world stable and unruffled. Our entitlement complex is only matched by our greed for attention and applause. We think we deserve the best and when we don't get it, we pout and shake our fists at God. The modern church-goer demands that God gives us stable jobs, a perfect un-damaged spouse that will fulfill all our desires and needs, and a fan-base of "friends" that will affirm our every action.
We become cruel and demanding and we forget that we are just as sinful and disgusting as anyone else on this planet.
We are now a social club where we gossip and slander with wild abandon and we complain when the coffee is too cold. We have virtually no knowledge of how to actually reach out to someone and if anyone get's too messy or uncomfortable, we ditch them because Oprah told us to only be around people who lift us higher.
In the short 25 years that I've spent here, I've been "serving" in the church for probably 11 years of them. I've noticed that we (myself included) are so much better at criticizing each other and cutting each other down than we are at encouraging each other. We love to hate, and hate it when we have to love and we've bought the lie that God favors our happiness above anything else.
Maybe I've just lost hope, maybe I've seen too many shades of gray when church culture keeps saying that everything is black and white.
I've been on mission trips in the United States and all across the world. I've worshiped with people who's names I can't say because it could end up with them imprisoned or dead, I've worked in places that don't even have clean drinking water and I've seen kids both in the U.S. and abroad that have never been told they're loved and don't know when their next meal will come.
In short, I've seen the world and its ugliness. I've gotten the filth of it on my hands and under my fingernails and no amount of counseling or worship sessions will ever clean it off.
I've been in places where I reached the end of my rope and found that I was woefully inadequate and there was no "happy ending" like in the movies. I've hugged kids who smelled like garbage and pee because they don't have showers, and I've had mothers tell me that I was the only male in their kids lives to ever show them any attention and love. I have shed so many tears and had my heart broken hundreds of times by how screwed up this world truly is. And it's left me changed.
I can't relate to Christians who would exclude me because I can't call myself a Calvinist or an Arminian.
I can't just look at someone who is lying to me when they say "I'm fine" when I know their lives are falling apart and smile and say "okay" and walk away.
I can't piously sit on a cushion and criticize and gossip about my fellow Christians and loftily look down on those I deem spiritually pathetic.
I can't claim to have all the answers for all the worlds problems.
And I can't just cut someone down without knowing who they are just because they act in a way that shocks me.
The minute that we leave the comfortable walls of our church and go into the world, we realize that this world is not black and white. We realize that we can't be an idealist anymore. We realize that we're not up to the task that God has called us to, and only He can make it happen. Suddenly, we wake up and realize that it's not just in the mission field where we are inadequate, but everywhere.
It hurts. It cuts our ego to shreds and leaves us feeling humiliated and exposed. But we also wake up to another reality.
We wake up to the fact that we truly are helpless. That Christ alone is the only light in this world.
I can honestly say that any insult you level against me will have some truth in it. I am truly one of the most arrogant, cold, exclusive, bullish and selfish people around and I am helpless before Satan when he accuses me of these things. It's only because of Christ that I have any hope at all. It's because of The Holy Spirit that I've had any growth in my life and only because of Him can I claim any goodness.
That's why I say this: accept your inadequacy. Accept your sinfulness and offer it to God. Don't celebrate it and embrace it, but understand that you're a work in progress and that it's Gods will to grow you, not to sit there and judge you. God has done amazing things in my life and where we see a hopeless situation, He sees a miracle.
But for God's sake, stop being so arrogant. Stop being a better critic than a comforter and stop acting like you know everyone's story. In my own life, I always say "walk a mile in my shoes...or better yet, go to the people I've learned from and walk a mile in theirs, then you can tell me how wrong I am". And finally, know the dangerous road you're walking. Correction and rebuke easily can become nagging and criticism and when you walk down that path, you walk the the same steps as Job's friends who cut Job down without understanding what he was going through and ended up in a position where God wouldn't even listen to their pleas without Job interceding for them (Job 42:7-9).
None of us have anything to brag about but Christ and His sacrifice, and the best way to reach a state of humbleness is to see our own darkness and realize that it's been paid for by the blood of Jesus.
In short, assume the best of our family in Christ, if we must correct each other, do so in love and respect and look out for each others needs before our own. It's what Christ did for us and we can't claim any better.