I have four children. When one of them is upset she can make a ruckus. A loud, whiny, complainy ruckus. And when there is a clashing of ideas of how things should go or did go, often many voices speak at once. There is so much noise I can’t hear the truth. And the one that is the loudest, or sometimes the most obnoxious, gets my ear. That loud voice is the one that demands my attention. Whether it is the closest version of the truth or not.
I was reminded of something this week. As I had some online conversations, I heard assumptions that surprised me about the Church. About reactions people have and motives of hurt. In these back and forths I was reminded not everyone thinks of the Church as I do. When I use Church with a capital “C”, I am referring not to buildings, but to a collection of people. Christians, everywhere. People who claim Jesus was God in human form on this earth allowing us a reconciliation with our Creator.
When I think of the Church, I have good feelings. Safe feelings. I have surrounded myself with people who interpret the Scriptures to point toward mercy and empathy. People who are stumbling along and clinging to the hope that is found in God’s offering of new life.
These are humble men and women. They feed the hungry, visit the sick and welcome me back into their presence every time. They are not loud voices on the internet. They put their heads down in prayer and in service. They do their work for God who sees them in their silence. They love because God is love and they serve God. Their voice is often but a whisper in our cultural dialogue.
Because this is my experience of the Church, when I think of Christians, those people who follow Father, Son and Holy Spirit, words come to mind. They are words like welcoming, compassionate, generous.
I was reminded this week that those aren’t the words that many associate with the Church. It’s more of the angry, judgy, nasty sort. I understand why. Those voices are often the ones that get the attention, certainly in the media. They are the loudest gongs. And they go for the shocking, sometimes offensive. They are polarizing.
I tend to dismiss these voices. As extreme, fundamentalist even. Where rules take precedent over relationships. I consider their approach of shooting daggers with words or actions far from the Jesus I know. Jesus who always says, Come.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Jesus
I forget when these voices throw a ruckus and say their words in the name of Jesus, to listeners they are connecting themselves to me. In my mind there is a difference. But in yours friend, it may all be the same.
I have heard many statistics about abortion in our country. Most recently 1 in 3 women will have one in her lifetime. I know a lot of women. Beautiful, strong, brave, surviving women. If you are my friend and you are reading this, than yes I am talking to you. If this statistic is true, many of you have had abortions. The thing is, I just don’t know which of you have. Because you haven’t told me. A few have shared this part of your story, but certainly not a third of you.
Which is fine. I don’t need to know everything about your past or current life to know I care about you and you are brave. If you haven’t told me this detail because it’s private and you haven’t felt like it, we can end this conversation here. Check your email, move on to YouTube, close your laptop. Done.
However, if you’ve wanted to tell me this sliver of your journey however significant or insignificant it has felt, and haven’t because you were afraid I wasn’t safe, especially because of my faith, I owe you an apology. A big one. Because I have failed you as a friend.
I have failed to be the louder voice. The one I know of the Church I experience. Of humility, acceptance and certainly the one of forgiveness over judgment. I have let voices that clang and work well in sound bites and debates win over Come.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus
Every day I come and lay my burdens down. That is what I know the people of the Church to do. A laying and relaying. A coming and recoming. We are not sterile, perfect people. Far from it. We stumble toward Jesus when he says Come, and we rest in him.
Friend, if this sounds like a different kind of Church, a different kind of Christian, than the one you have experienced I am sorry I have not been louder. But that’s the thing, Jesus calls us to be humble and serve out of love not out of attention seeking. So my quiet friends have faithfully been living their lives and you have not known. I hope you have experienced a sliver of that love they live from. That I do my best to live from. May we have a gentle, quiet, humble conversation about this if you’d like. You are always welcome in my circle. Come.