Day 31: I Picked Jesus Part 5
So all of this is to say: I know what it's like to live without God. I know too what it's like to live with him. I know what it's like to be made to choose between God and friends, to reject such a choice, and to discover on the other side a God who does not and would not ask us to choose between loving people and loving Him. I know what it means to stare down the abyss of doubt and have it stare back into me. I wrestled with the God of the universe beside the river. And God and I still wrestle, as did Jacob with his Lord. And like Jacob, I have received a new name, or at least a new purpose. I have been truly saved, cliche as it sounds.
But I am done settling. I won’t settle for a brand of faith which trades the Spirit-empowered Gospel of Christ for a sin management program, or a country club membership. I won’t settle because I love the Lord, I treasure the Gospel and I believe in the church. I won’t settle because I will not see my people won over to the sins of pride, hatred and exclusivity. I won’t settle because I hear the voice of God calling us to lives of service, grace and cruciform sacrifice.
So what does this look like, to “not settle”? This has been the issue which has plagued me ever since I set out on the “reconstruction” part of my “construction, deconstruction, reconstruction” journey. How, if I am to participate in the church, do I follow Christ, while rejecting attempts on the part of others to saddle my faith with the same baggage which almost brought the whole thing down the last time around? The longer I pray on it, and the more often I kneel (like actually, physically kneel) at the feet of my beautiful, sovereign God, the clearer my first step becomes: I must tend to the plank in my own eye. I must realize that, fundamentally, I am the problem. Sure, I may not be the whole problem, but I am as much a problem as I can handle, as I am called to handle.
It is not my place to police others, anymore than it was their job to police me. What I perceive to be unhealthy behaviors or doctrines in my fellow Christians may actually be the necessary steps along their own journeys. I had to pass through valleys of false piety and militant religion on the way to a more inclusive, Christ-centered faith. And what’s more, I’m not there yet. My own heart is still covered in a plaque of selfishness and shame. All I have to offer my friends, my family and faith community is my earnest, imperfect, messy, complicated faith. I can set an example of utter dependence on God, and I can offer my life in service and sacrifice. I can try to love. Try. And fail. And repeat.
It may happen that, on occasion, I witness within the church a flaring up of the virus of worldly hate, demonic power and bent toward oppression. And in such a case, I alone am utterly powerless to affect real change. But the beautiful thing is: I am never alone. In the first place, God’s Spirit is with me always. And chances are, I’m not the only one noticing these things. It may just take my voice, as God calls me to speak, to set a work of the Spirit in motion in the hearts of God’s children.
That’s how it is supposed to be. We collectively call each other to the presence of Christ, spur each other on, but not toward some hollow goal of behavioral perfection. We are called to follow the example of Christ, who healed the sick, lame and blind, fed the hungry, and stood with the oppressed. He modeled a power and authority unlike anything the world had seen, a from-below, sacrificial, bleeding approach to victory. He defeated the powers of this world by loving, by dying, and, when necessary, by speaking truth to religious and political powers which violated the dignity of God’s beloved children.
Those who visit petty judgment upon a hurting world are never on the side of Christ. Jesus is the one laying down his life for the hurting, and he calls us to do the same. And it is beautiful. This is the reason, all those years ago, that I picked Jesus. And that’s just the thing: I was desperate, hopeless, looking for a reason to live, and when I looked out on the sea of competing answers to life’s big questions, I picked Jesus.
I picked Jesus. Not a culture war.