Conversations and Epiphanies

I heard a statement telling someone what they should/should not do/believe in yesterday.

And I grappled with it.

First of all because it was "party line" for the religious tradition I grew up in and secondly because the recipient of the criticism was someone I consider one of the most graceful, joy-filled people on the planet. A woman who has served God her entire 84 years and shouldn't be chided.

And something about that moment crystalized for me my whole internal battle on spirituality, Christianity, and the religious training I received when I was younger.

I need to clarify that these are my thoughts as I try to figure out my own theology and make sense of the world I live in. Also, there are bound to be some generalizations here.

This was my big epiphany:

- I have met beautiful people worshipping God in thousands of different ways in my lifetime. (Some don't even call Him by the same name I do.) None of them perfect. (Not even the ones who worship the same way I do.)

- I have heard countless hours of criticism on people, belief systems, and methods of worship from pulpits, living rooms, Internet and phone lines. (Most of it emphasizing why the speaker was right and others were wrong.)

- I have observed that many who delivered this criticism aren't living perfect lives. (Reference that the divorce rate for evangelical Christians is higher than for the rest of the country.)

It occurs to me that...

We desperately need humility. Only arrogance believes in our own perfection...in our ability to completely understand God, scripture and the hearts of others. We need to acknowledge that there are billions responding to the evidence they see of God in creation worshipping Him with whatever means they have at hand, and know that "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)

We need to learn grace. If we truly believe that Jesus hung bloodied and broken at the hands of both religious leaders and godless men and forgave them, then that is the standard. And if that is the picture of what grace looks like, then how can we make our life's mission to point out sin? "Good news" is that Jesus gave His life in forgiveness so none of us have to stand in front of God's pointing finger. (Notice not our pointing finger.) Should we really focus on protesting sin or should we humbly acknowledge that we all sin and see the parity? And, if we can't bear the weight of our own sin, then why would we continually heap that weight on others? (Ref Mt 23:4).

It occurs to me that grace is intimately tied to humility. If God "opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Proverbs 3:34) then we have to embrace humility if we want to learn grace.

We need to stop saving the world and start with our own homes and families. John and I watched six beautiful Christian families disintegrate in the past four years. And while it would be easy to look at them, shake our heads and pass judgment, we can't do that. You see, we hit the wall ourselves.

If we aren't absolutely flowing with love, peace, kindness and patience (evidence of the Holy Spirit) then we don't get to tell others how they should live. Jesus spoke of taking logs out of our eyes before focusing on the speck in our brothers eye. (Lk 6:42) If we can't effectively serve the people closest to us, then how are we fit to serve the world? (We definitely aren't fit to tell them where they are screwing up.) Again, this is intimately connected to humility and grace. It is so easy to forget the beauty of the people we live with when we feel taken for granted or unseen. I'm curious if humility and grace in our own homes could change the world.

As Dave Browning aptly put in his book Deliberate Simplicity, "Christians are trafficking in unlived truth." And I'm embarassed to say that I've done it.

I'm done.

I don't want to be right. I want to be like Jesus.

And I imagine that in my attempts to do that I am not going to be able to hold "party line." And I also believe that the only ones who are really going to tell me how I'm doing are those who live with me. So, John, Chase, Bethany...we should probably have a conversation...
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall