Relationships and the Church
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling very uplifted and encouraged at church and in my personal walk with God. I’m not sure if it’s just because my mood is at the high point of an ebb, and if the flow will soon come and I’ll go back to feeling cynical. Or perhaps it’s because God is genuinely working on my heart, making me more malleable towards those who think differently than I do. I think, more than anything, I have come to realize that compassionate hearts can be found in the most unlikely of places, and that the Christians I have chosen to surround myself with don’t deserve all the harsh negativity that I have lately been directing at evangelical Christianity as a whole. These people are my brothers and sisters, and our common bond in affirming Christ as Lord always comes first.
This is why I can forgive when the Christians around me fall short of what I believe God desires of us as Christians. This is why I can think before I speak, consider the impact of my words before I let them fall from my lips, because I know just as well as anybody that words have consequences. This is why I can try to practice patience and grace, even as my heart pushes back against the conservative values my church teaches, values I know so well and have come to regard with a wary eye.
We are all sons and daughters of the same Kingdom, and we are all beautiful and indispensable parts of the body of Christ. Some of us defend the literalism of the Bible protectively, and some of us have learned to see truth in it whether the events it describes actually happened or not. Some of us find their relationship with God strengthened by leaving organized religion, and some of us desperately need to be surrounded by other church-goers in order to stay sane in this crazy world. For some of us, love and compassion come easily, but so does scripturally unsound compromise.
We all have different battles we fight, and different gifts we have to offer the Body. No two of us are the same, and this is why we need each other so much. Even when I’m not in a good place like I am now, and angsty thoughts about the Church are the only kinds of thoughts I can find it in my heart to generate, it is still so wrong to give up on her. The Church is my family, my support, a powerful catalyst that God can use to keep me connected to himself. And the kicker is, the Church is made up of people who are no more flawed, misguided, and capable of lousy judgment than I myself am. And when I remember that, I find it very hard to keep those angsty thoughts churning.
So I’m going to keep building relationships. I’m not going to stop challenging the status quo, or thinking critically about how we can best approach how we do community together and how we stay unified even though we will never wholly agree on how it is we’re supposed to go about being Christians. Because at the end of our lives, when Jesus calls us home and we stand before the judgment seat, I don’t think he’ll be interviewing me about my beliefs when he assesses my devotion to him. I think he’ll be asking me how I loved him with my life, and how I loved his children. And I want to be able to say that I loved his children by offering them the exact same thing that he offered me: a relationship.