Thursday, August 6, 2009

Evangelical = Weirdo

This week has been largely about how we smell and shine to the world. My attention is shifted today, however. I have been watching documentaries on the treadmill. It is an interesting way to catch up on perceived culture. I have been watching Jesus Camp, for the last couple of days. Today, I have been thinking about what the world says about us.

The popular perception of evangelicals, in the US, is that we are a freak show. In international Christian circles, we are Godless. Both are right to some extent. Today, we will look at those closer to home.

I can’t blame people for seeing us as completely irresponsible. Some evangelicals have frightening agendas. Some anti-evangelicals have frightening agendas. My husband and I have seen, and experienced some of the far-right agenda, first hand. We hold Matthew 23:1-36, close to our heart as we consider our experience of Christianity verses what God has shown us of Himself.

Aside from the popular response to evangelicals, we have a lot to work on. The first words of John Stott’s introduction in Basic Christianity, says, “They [those hostile to the church] are opposed to anything which savours of institutionalism. They detest the establishment and its entrenched privileges. And they reject the church – not without some justification – because they regard it as impossibly corrupted by such evils.”

I have gone though the processes of belief and lack thereof. I have been hostile to the church, even as a believer and attender. The world, in its lack of experience with the church, cannot tell me anything that I do not know about its evils. I have first hand knowledge of all the shortcomings of my brothers and sisters. I do not pretend that I, and they, are void of fault.

I know from my experience how sinful I am. I was talking to my mentor, only yesterday, about the lack of biblical love that I demonstrate sometimes. I told her about my brokenness over the judgment that I exhibit, sometimes. I own that. I am still in the fight.

This struggle was deepened as I watch this documentary. I am not of the denomination represented in this movie. I wondered about the timing of it, considering that Ted Haggard was on it, condemning homosexuality and calling for repentance. We have reason to be called out by the world, and each other.

There are people who are very devout on this video. They would look weird to those who have no experience with Jesus, at all. Even to more moderate evangelicals, some of the movie would instigate moments of concern.

There are many members to the body of Christ. Christ will judge our hearts. That is where I have landed in my thought process after thinking overnight. I have seen crazier acts of devotion.

Wherever you fall in your expression of belief, Paul tells us what we look like from the outside. We look weird; but appearance does not equate to experience. Let’s look a little closer at what he says.

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:8b-10, NRSV)

Lots of people who find out that I devote my time to volunteer ministry think that I live an emaciated and deprived life. I see the opposite. Disregarding Jesus, I have lived a life that hurt me. I have made choices that made me wither and fade away for periods of time. There are things that I can’t take back. My flesh creates a life of self, miserable and barren.

Because of what the world sees, when strangers find out what I do, they think that I have to be a fake, like other Christians that make the news or are involved in documentaries, prideful and uncaring…and uneducated. The fact that I really pray every day to love these people, earnestly, can never be real to them. They cannot believe me because they are conditioned to suspicion and hate.

I am not famous; and probably will only be known to my friends and the people that I minister to and with; and, yet, I am known to the Creator of the world. He bothered to meet me before I entered my mother’s womb. He is present every day when I crawl to His feet with my cup of coffee. I am well known.

I am not emaciated and dead to the pleasures of life. I know joy, even when I am hurting I can know joy. I feel the Spirit under my skin and I know that because He lives, I can face tomorrow. I am just as alive as my Savior, and I will be forever with Him.

I will be excluded because of who I am. I will be left out of conversations and social circles. I will be held responsible for the sins of all other Christians, and the shortcomings that all people share. That comes with this territory. I will be punished, fairly and unfairly…but it will never kill me. They will think that they are crushing my spirit with their words, but my Spirit will not die.

There are things that happen to us, that will happen to everyone. I am not exempt from bad things. I can feel sorrow, but I have hope. I can mourn, but I will celebrate. I rejoice because I know that my God is sovereign. He is in control and no sorrow will overtake me.

I understand that my treasures here are ephemeral. I may appear to make odd financial choices so that my church can have more, but I know what I am doing. The most precious investment that I have been called to make is my time. The riches of freedom came at the greatest cost imaginable. This is where my treasure lies, and this truth is what my heart longs to invest in others.

I might look like I have nothing, but I have everything. Everything. We look weird. We pay for the reputation of others. The only thing that separates us, even from other believers, is genuine love. This will make the difference.

Father, thank you for telling us who we are. Thank you for giving us everything. We are completely aware that it all comes from you. Show us who to genuinely love and set us apart for your service.

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