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Friday, April 15, 2016

I Was Wrong, and So Were You



I recently (OK, this morning) wrote a short paper reviewing the book, Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation, by John W. Wright.  It was a good book.  Now as I sit here, this afternoon, there are a couple of quotes that keep running through my mind.  The first one is directly from the text:

"Repentance bears no shame for Christians" (Wright, 2007, 164).

I'm going to come back to that one.

The second one is this:

We have abdicated our responsibility, as the church.

I wish I could tell you when social action became important to me.  I can't.  I suppose this is because there wasn't a moment when a switch turned on.  It was more of a slow, painful progression that came in fits and starts. 

To be honest, this transformation left me wondering why my values had been turned upside-down.  It also left me with a completely different set of people in my life whose ideals mirrored my own.  It was not comfortable.  It was disorienting.  And I hated it.  But I came out on the other side, slapped with a new set of labels just so everyone was clear about who should fire the next shots, knowing that I liked who I had become more than who I was.

And yet, there are problems with this side, too.  This declaration might be why everyone keeps firing...

I know this won't be relevant for all of my readers, because some of you do not self-identify as Christians, but I want to be a little rough on my Christian friends for a moment.  Bear with me.  We're all missing the mark.

To those of you who don't care that much about the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugees, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the single mom who can't pay her bills even though she works two jobs, and the dad who just went through the check-out lane ahead of you with seven WIC vouchers and a pack of cigarettes; you need to care.  It's that simple.  These are people.  They matter.  They have stories, and their stories have the capacity to fit into the biblical narrative just as seamlessly as yours and mine.  They are us.  We are them.  Get over yourselves and get your heads out of the sand.  You can't really separate yourselves from them.  You're not even supposed to.  They are not less human than you are, less valuable.  Your personal piety falls short, because Jesus ate with people like this.  When you turn your back on them, you're not like Jesus.

To those of you who care a great deal about the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugees, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the single mom who can't pay her bills even though she works two jobs, and the dad who just went through the check-out lane ahead of you with seven WIC vouchers and a pack of cigarettes; I hope they know it.  Because talk is cheap.  These are people.  They matter.  They have stories, and their stories have the capacity to fit into the biblical narrative just as seamlessly as yours and mine.  They are us.  We are them.  Get over yourselves and get your heads out of the sand.  This may be the worst of all, these words that we say backed by... what?  Righteous indignation?  Saying that you care does not make you a champion of the weak.  Their stories are not for your exploitation.  Your self-promotion falls short, because Jesus was a servant.  When you don't move to action, you're not like Jesus.

And all of us... those who care and those who don't give a (oh, wait, family friendly site here)...  We're all falling pitifully short, because we're not coming together in community... you know... like the church...  Even those of us who are doing something are often haphazardly throwing a McDs gift card out the window to the homeless guy on the street corner or sending pigs and chickens to a third world country or, more likely, hanging our heads and wringing our hands and writing one more angry blog post.  And don't get me wrong, doing something is so much better than doing nothing, but I think there must be some better way.

Not too long ago, someone mentioned that this call to social action is my own... that not everyone is called to such a thing... Someone else told me in no uncertain terms that she appreciated my call to help the poor but that there are also people who are called to help the wealthy (this was in connection with a job interview, you can just imagine how well that one ended).  And I got to thinking about these words... and others... spoken into my life... and they don't ring true.  This calling is not unique.  God doesn't separate people into neat little groups and ask us to stay in our boxes with the people who are just like us.  No, if we're going to be the church, we all belong to each other.

Well, that's uncomfortable, isn't it? 

Just as a side note, that also means that I have to love all those people around whom I'm not too secure, as well.  If you want a funny life anecdote at this point (and, believe me, I am well aware this post needs one), I glanced up at our family's prayer wall, earlier this week, and saw that one of my children is praying for Donald Trump.  The only thing I could think was, "My children are so much better than I am..."  So, I really mean everybody.

I saw this quote the other day, and it resonated more deeply than I wanted it to:


Yes.  This.  All of us.  In community.  Being the church.  Being the people of God.  Living into the narrative of Scripture.  Redemptive.  Loving.  Christ-like.

Look, some of us need more help than others, that's for sure.  But maybe if we all give everything we are, there's enough to make a life of it...

L.

PS  I forgot to come back to that first quote, so let me be the first to repent.  I am not better than anybody else.  I am not more important.  Forgive me for the many times I have not taken notice of your narrative as it has intersected with mine.  I hope it intersects again and we become a part of something bigger, together...

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