The news is overwhelming lately…Christians in Iraq being brutally raped and murdered for their faith, almost a thousand innocent victims falling to Ebola in Africa, racial tensions are soaring locally in St. Louis, prolific Christian writer Mark Driscoll leaving Acts 29, best-selling musicians Gungor rejecting foundational truths in the Old Testament, and Robin Williams committing suicide.
My heart is heavy and my soul is weary.
In the midst of these heart-breaking stories, some in the Christian community are missing the opportunity to respond in love. At a church we visited this weekend, the production team delivered a highly polished worship set, groovy music played as we were encouraged to interact with an ice-breaker question, and the pastor shared the story of the prodigal son with ample creative elements – no one missed a beat. But, there was no prayer time offered for our dear brothers and sisters who are literally in life-and-death situations in Iraq. How can we come together and not remember those dying from Ebola? Are we so self-centered, so in need of self-gratification that it would “ruin the mood” to pause the comfy, entertainment-like worship to allow our hearts and minds to join the worldwide Church in a moment of calling out, “Kyrie Eleison”? What is love’s response to tragedy, pain, and unspeakable horror? What should my posture be to such unfathomable atrocities? In the shadow of the Christian genocide in Iraq and aggressive pandemic in Africa, this weekend’s service did not sit well with my soul. I am not sure what the answer is, but I am struggling with the void of embracing, engaging, and participating in the global plight of humanity.
The situation with Mark Driscoll has been brewing for quite some time now, yet a large sector of the conservative Christian community has continued to follow his celebrity leadership. While Driscoll has lashed out at women, the gay community, and “sissy” men who prefer less “manly” hobbies than gun collecting, he has been lacking in the humble, servant-style leadership of Jesus. From my limited perspective, it is confusing to see so many Christians following Driscoll with seemingly more fervor than Jesus himself? We chuckle condescendingly when we read the Old Testament story of the Israelites making a golden calf from melted-down earrings and then worshiping it as the “god” who brought them out of Egypt. Hilarious, right? But today, our idolatry is just a little more dressed up, more refined, more socially acceptable…yet it is still an affront to the one true God to place anything before Him. Even a pastor…perhaps especially. The first and greatest commandment helps corral our tendencies to wander: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” While I am not prone to idolizing Driscoll, there are plenty of idols in my life to tend to and purge.
On the other end of the spectrum is Gungor. It has turned into a swirling storm of name-calling, accusations, and unloving behavior. To be clear, I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible…even the parts about creation and the flood. On this theological point, I must dissent with Gungor’s stance. But, I have to wonder if it is possible to hold fast to a theological belief, yet treat someone with a differing viewpoint with dignity and love? I not only hope so, but I hear the Word of God challenging me to this complex call. I believe it is possible to stand firm, yet simultaneously reach out in compassion. It does not have to be an either-or proposition. The postures are not mutually exclusive. The choices are not limited to belief system compromise OR excommunication. Love is the key…the tricky, delicate balance of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Yes, it’s easier to write off a group like Gungor and tweet nasty insults at them, but I am certain that’s not the best choice. I am willing to even go one step further and suggest that we can continue to grow, worship, and learn from their music – even while disagreeing with their current stance on creation and flood account. God is wildly creative and has a track record of “making beautiful things” out of all of his creation.
The racially charged police incident in St. Louis this week leaves me speechless. What a senseless tragedy for the Brown family and a destructive situation for a community already struggling with racial tension. While I do not live in that suburb, the local and national news is saturated with stories, pictures, and reports of the tumultuous disturbance. It causes me to consider my interaction with the diversity in our school district and in our neighborhood. How can I bring hope and healing to the people I cross paths with every day? What can I contribute to the greater city of St. Louis which thirsts unknowingly for the love of Christ? How can I identify and correct the prejudice I sometimes feel toward people who are different from me? I’m honestly overwhelmed and am just beginning to work through this. I have some hard heart work to do…and prayer.
Sadly, the world has lost one of the most funny, creative, prolific, wild, hard-working comedians of our time – Robin Williams. I recently saw an interview where he shared his struggle with depression. It is bizarre to think that the same individual who creates immense laughter for millions could face such a dark, inner battle. His sudden death is a stark reminder that we have no idea what is happening behind the closed doors of the heart. We need to speak kindly to each other, we need to open our eyes to see the hurting around us, and we need to help each other flourish. I need to love well, see, care, encourage, and give grace in lavish doses.
Love is the answer. But it’s not the sappy, pink heart Valentine kind of love. It’s the tough stuff – the exhausting, selfless, bleeding, rigorous love that we were created to pursue, receive, and enjoy. Jesus is the finest example of how to navigate the messy moments. He was an eyewitness to a health crisis of leprosy, he experienced the forceful occupation of an intolerant Roman government, he stepped into the racial discrimination against the Samaritans, he battled the self-righteous Pharisees, one of his twelve companions committed suicide, and he gave grace and time to those who struggled with errant theology. He loved wholeheartedly without compromising his beliefs. He moved into the chaos rather than retreating to the familiar, entertaining, and comfortable. He spoke truth supported by his actions.
He saw…truly saw the needs…the deeper, real needs hidden below the surface of poverty, zip codes, skin color, physical sickness, pride, disillusionment…
his unrelenting love is needed…