You told me the gospel is what truly matters as you spoke and the 5000 listened but you’ve given us no loaves and fish. We are famished on the gospel you preach because this gospel builds wells in Africa and feeds orphans but it’s rude to the lady who works at the falafel stand, while you’re waiting on your spanokopita and greek fries, leaning on the counter with your world-changing friends.
And you don’t leave a tip in the little jar and you don’t look her in the eyes when she takes your order and you don’t even know you’re not loving people as you carry your swag bag full of books on social justice and advocacy, walking away in your well-worn Toms. You love people like projects.
You hand some wadded up cash to the grizzly faced man wobbling down the sidewalk. You don’t let the fact that he’s black or dirty or wafting drunk bother you. He tucks his cardboard sign under his arm and when he grins, half of his face slopes down as if it’s sliding off his stubbly cheeks. You love the poor, the homeless, the black man. You feel good about yourself when you walk away. You are a bridge-builder, a lover of all.
But you hate the church. Hate her so much. You don’t come out and say it but you cast your eyes about and dismiss her. She is the white woman, the suburbanite, the privileged. She is the business man, the feminist, the submissive homeschool mom, the republican. She is backward and wrong and embarrassing. She has bumper stickers you disagree with. You hate her theology. You are ashamed of her because she always says the wrong things and messes it up for the rest of us just trying to be like Jesus.
You’ve outgrown the need for church. You are changing the world.
You are the church you love.
You told me how to support nonprofits and to research balances and how much goes where and what it all does for orphans or homeless or pregnant teen mamas. You tell me the church should care about these things but you don’t trust her enough to drop money in the bucket. You don’t trust she’s God’s plan to get things done. When you say church, it’s autonomous and fluid, not faces and people and souls you rub up against in your life.
You told me people matter, but you never stopped to really listen to any of them unless they were saying what you say or you were taking notes to rebuke them.
You told me everyone’s words matter but then you call the small faithful as they plod along and the big influential and we all forget the faithful are the influential in this kingdom, big or small. But you tell us ones that are heard are world changers so everyone gets louder shouting over each other and polishing their words like shiny stones to sling and the mess is everywhere and when did we all get so important? Our egos are stifling and we’re all running out of breath.
We can’t even see Christ sometimes. We can’t even see Him in our open letters and our sarcastic blogs and we don’t even know we are the bully we’re rallying against. We all want to be righteous and brave and we’re all certain we are when we tell the truth about others.
You told me the unseen matters, that what you do for the least of these is the thing you’re carrying into eternity but then you show me glossy slides of all the things that matter and I see clearly you mean the tangible needs to be shot with a Nikon and filtered in Photoshop for the glory to really shine.
And when we’re talking, your eyes flit about looking for someone more important to grasp hold of because so many things piled up in eternity look like empty hands.
And you tell me we all matter but I don’t see all there. I see some. Only some.
And when you tell me to come and to change the world and to give my life away, I am already so tired.
Because I’ve forgotten that I already did.
I died the day Christ ransomed me. It is no longer I that lives but Christ in me. And I’m walking around in this grace, often a size too big for me, stumbling me as I grow into it.
And sometimes I wonder if we’re too busy trying to talk and be heard and collaborate that we forget that to die, we go lower each day, into cold earth and the old rots away and the process is ugly and solitary, done in the dark, a feast for worms.
We die like confession and are raised like testimony.
We reek flesh in the place in between and it’s only in rebirth we come squealing into new light.
I am born again, an infant babbling in syllables and learning the language of God, the way to stand and toddle and walk along grasping at the edge of Him for balance. When I let go I fall.
If I look foolish and weak in this infancy, it’s only because I am both of those things.
And maybe everything you said unraveled. Maybe I’ve tugged too hard trying to stand and they’ve spun wildly line by line and I’m naked and dizzy.
Maybe the only way to ever really cover myself is to begin to reknit the way I love Jesus and the way He loves me?
Maybe we are all naked in the garden, and Satan’s been telling us lies since the day he hissed we could be just like Jesus?
We can change the world, just as long as we start with ourselves first. Just as long as we start with the church or the homeless or Africa. Just as long as we start with racism and politics and abortion. Just as long as we start with our mission and our gifts and our purpose. Just as long as we start with our platform and our voice and our calling.
Because flesh can point ambition and purpose and our zeal for truth in a million different directions and we’ll never find grace that sets us free. And free changes the world.
The devil promises us we can change the world, just as long as we NEVER start with Jesus.
Maybe it will always be less about the ideas we have and the plans we make and more about the naked repentance that comes from admitting I told you things but I didn’t live them. I told you things but I didn’t love you when I spoke. I told you things but I never saw you. I told you things but I was wrong. I was never like Jesus when I did those things. I was starting in all the wrong places.
Maybe it will always be about the gospel’s extravagant grace saying, I am dying a bit more each day and coming violently alive. I am learning to love Jesus most.
Maybe that’s how we change the world.
I spent the weekend watching IF Gathering online. It brought up a lot of thoughts. These thoughts aren’t specific to IF, they were just stirred by it.