I’m tired of church-bashing.
Last week I stumbled upon a blog post which sent me tumbling and jaded over the edge of current theological crags–crags which feel more and more like over-relevant, exegetical escarpment. Crags which taste like an hyper-emergent, post-modernistic bowl of lukewarm, pluralistic porridge.
Ok, maybe that’s a little strong.
But when I came across the Christians and their Molestation Problem blog post, I was bugged. Took me three days to calm down after reading it. Took me three more to keep myself from posting a doctoral-length response. Took me until today to figure out why it bugged me so much. The title alone would (and I dare say should) infuriate anyone who’s ever survived molestation. I rolled my eyes as I watched 300+ comments pour in, most of them praising the author for embracing a molester and issuing battle cries for all Christians to do the same. If we can’t, we’re all just as sinful as the molester himself. As the blog author wrote, “I looked at him square in the eye . . . ‘I’d let you have dinner with my family man. My wife would cook you a meal to remember and my kids would make you feel forgiveness unlike any you know. He IS a God of second chances and if you are clean in His eyes, you are clean in mine. Live well my friend.’”
The blog raked in record site visits and record numbers of comments.
Let’s all go and do likewise.
Now, stop for a second and know this: I believe in forgiveness–the kind of forgiveness which requires straining and sweating and pursuing with all your heart until it settles like an autumn sunset on your soul. Forgiveness is powerful and essential to live a free and ferocious life in Christ.
And I do believe someone should invite the guy to dinner. I believe Jesus would invite the guy to dinner. But I don’t believe everyone should feel responsible to invite everyone to dinner. Nor do I believe it’s appropriate to tell the world if/when you do invite someone out-of-the-ordinary to dinner. Save that for a pharisitical street corner.
Living on the edge for Christ does not eliminate the need for boundaries. Forgiveness does not necessitate relationship with people who hurt you personally and deeply. Forgiveness is grace we extend, without allowing the hand which receives it to drag us–or innocent others–back into their pit.
The “Christians and their Problem” blog bugged me, like the Chris Tomlin video, “Bowlin’,” bugged me when it was shown to a middle school youth group. Evidently the video was shown to tens of thousands at the recent Catalyst conference. Watch the video and someone please tell me, what’s so funny about bullying, a full-view wedgie (complete with thong underwear), and scantily clad women petting a car like a kitten? So it’s Chris Tomlin and it’s edgy. Does that make it a “relevant” way to reel in an audience–adult or pre-teen?
The “Christians and their Problem” blog bugged me like Donald Miller’s “reverse confession booth” bugged me. The climax of Miller’s popular book Blue Like Jazz, Miller and his friends take it upon themselves to set up a confession tent to apologize for the way the church fails people.
The church doesn’t fail people.
People fail people.
And failed people make up the church.
Admit to this, yes, but can we quit bashing the church? Can we quit apologizing for holding people accountable and for speaking the truth in love?
Quit pushing edgy themes and tepid theology and just give me Jesus.
Jesus was edgy, after all. His life oozed a truth and love so radical it was incredulously irrelevant. But the irrelevance of the Gospel is appropriate.
Over-relevance is not.
I believe in living brave-not-safe, but not in a way that makes others feel inadequate. Not in a way that ignores the need for boundaries in a world full of prowling principalities. And not in a way which assumes a person–or group of people–has the authority to apologize for the brokenness of the church on my–or anyone elses’–behalf.
Jesus was edgy.
But He didn’t fall off a cliff trying to be.
Jesus was truth and love. Gentleness and peace.
Jesus drew attention to Himself not because of hoaky stunts or scenarios, but because of unexpected, unpretentious, unabashed love. Jesus came to wells at mid-day, yet knew when to shake dust from His feet and leave. Jesus dined with sinners, but He didn’t hesitate to command those He healed to pick up their mats.
Can we drop the catch-phrases and flagrant attempts to market Jesus?
As my friend Amy says, “Proclaiming truth in a soft voice is often more provocative than shouting to the masses. I imagine that the provocation was as much WHAT [Jesus] said and did as HOW he said and did it.”
Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-3 (The Message version):
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you.
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”
Call me crazy.
Call me a church-lover.
Or call me a Hoosier who grew up thinking John Mellencamp was right about standin’ for somethin’ or fallin’ for anything.
Most of all, forgive me if this post was too edgy.
I just can’t bear to see broken folks (including myself) falling off–and falling for–the wrong edge.
P.S. For some great organizations and writers who live on the edge without being edgy, check out my blogroll and the buttons at the bottom of this page . . . places like World Next Door, Sticky Jesus, Mary DeMuth, Karen Spears Zacharias, Beth Moore, Billy Coffey and more.