Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are We Proud Of Ourselves?

We (the church) for decades have worked very hard to make our faith and our churches approachable.  Whether it be a mash up of church and Starbucks or elaborate family programs.  Maybe it is carefully crafting our Sunday service to be more seeker friendly.  Or maybe it is banning christianese from our vocabulary.  These past two weeks have proven we just don't get it.

As the pile on of Victoria Osteen has persisted the words whether carefully chosen or vile, the cause be it noble or otherwise - what the world outside the church saw was that we eat our own.  Cannibals if you will, failing to show the grace and love we profess exists in the body.  Will they know we are Christians by our love?  Is it "Blest Be The Tie That Binds?" Or the noose I justifiably hang you with?

Now to be be completely forthcoming, I too like Ms.Osteen, lived in a glass house. I wasn't a preachers wife, but a preachers daughter.  And I've had criticism leveled in my direction, and accusations that cut deep eventually severing relationships.  I was told "that sweater is a little sluttly" and "God isn't glorified with the drums in your song." etc.  I had to learn to forgive as a discipline (despite my heart conflict) before I was a freshman in high school.  Criticism stings like a bee. Not having a body of support to fall gracefully into when you have stumbled or are in pain is rattling.

I now live on the other side of that glass house and have learned that when you don't agree or your theology doesn't match up you simply need to make adjustments (this was an ugly hard lesson and i will tell you about it later). Maybe it is the need to walk away from a church. Maybe it is the need to agree to disagree.

Knowing some of those who are on the Victoria pile, I know you are lovers of the Lord, imperfect, and busy trying to live and work out your faith.  I don't judge you - I am looking at us as that Family of God. That place folks are to turn to.  And if I were looking in from the outside I would fail to see how the body of Christ differs from the politicians you would find on Meet The Press on Sunday morning as they rip apart the latest political figure to stumble.

Ms. Osteen isn't the first to have put her neck out there, to have it promptly chopped off.  Just a few weeks ago, the same thing was happening to Mark Driscoll.  And decades before that it was Sandi Patty, Amy Grant, Joyce Landorf etc.   This behavior has prevailed for decades.  For those of us who minister, small or large churches, we are always objects of criticism.  It is a sad occupational hazard.

These simple verses sum up how we should we should try to act.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:4-8 NIV

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12 NIV

I'll leave with this example, of how I wish we all could be.  When I was a young ministers daughter one of the most ostracizing ministry scandals (and there was more than one) was that of Jim Baker.  It was a terrible thing to watch.  My heart broke for his kids.  Maybe we can all learn a little something from how Billy Graham and his now departed wife Ruth Graham acted towards Jim Baker.  Having just returned from toilet duty Jim Baker was informed that Billy Graham had come to visit him in jail.  Billy Graham hug him, told Jim that he loved him and they had a visit that ended in prayer.

Not even 48 hours after Jim's release from Jail, Ruth contacted his halfway house requesting permission for Jim to join her family at church the next Sunday.  Permission was granted. That morning he arrived at church to be greeted by the Pastor, escorted inside to sit with the Graham family. After the service was over, Ruth invited Jim to Sunday dinner  As the meal came to a close Ruth caught a glimpse of Jim's "wallet."  It was a very worn envelope.  She excused herself to return with one of Billy Grahams wallets and gave it to Jim.  It is known, that the Grahams became his sponsor, purchased a car for him and even paid for his home for a time.   This is what those outside the church are looking to us to be. This is the type of person I aspire to be.

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