I started writing this morning and it started to sound familiar. Like I had written this once before. I went back into my archives and, sure enough, I had written some really similar thoughts about five years ago. So I’ll repeat them today.
I don’t think I’ve ever written anything I believe stronger or that I’m more convicted about. Read on…
The world we live in is more complicated than it used to be fifty years ago. No doubt. For crying out loud, it’s more complicated today than it was last year.
I don’t think the world is more sick and twisted and evil than it’s ever been. I don’t think sin is more prevalent or humanity is any darker than it was during the days of Noah or the reign of Nero or the crusades of the middle ages or the tyranny of Hitler. Sin is sin.
But what I do think is different today is access. Information…any and all kinds of information…information with no filter for the voices and opinions and ideas that speak into our minds and hearts…all of it with unlimited access.
For all the good that technological advancement has brought, it has come with a price. The internet…with instant and unlimited access…and the satellite…with the capability of bringing world events live to our recliners…have changed everything.
No longer are values or information or “truth” given in controlled doses by people we trust. It is sensory overload and every man…and every “truth” for himself. And may the loudest or most powerful or most manipulative win.
And it’s just the way it is.
One of the problems I see is christians these days are fighting themselves into a corner. Running scared. There is a paranoia and fear that we are losing the battle. Especially here in the United States. They say we are losing the battle for the minds of our young people. They say we are losing the battle for the morality of a nation. They say we are losing the battle for orthodox doctrine. They say we are losing the battle for right against wrong.
Many followers of Christ are drawing lines between “us” and “them”. As some try to bridge the gap with love and generosity, the Body of Christ has begun to turn on itself. And because powerful and influential voices are heard loud and clear and instanteneously…and without filters…people are forced, or even coerced, into choosing sides.
And that’s inside the doors of the church.
My fear? As the church becomes more militant and combative in our fight for truth, justice and the American way, the more our commitment to expanding the Kingdom will be compromised.
Come on. Is our highest calling to preach the gospel to all nations and reach the lost with the message of hope and grace and healing revealed in the life and words of Jesus or not? Are we called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus or not? Are we to do what he did…say the things he said…treat people the way he did…and live by giving value to the things he valued or not?
You may say that Jesus was an extremist. Some say he polarized people and drew lines and caused his followers to choose sides. And in a way he did. But he also did something else.
He navigated the middle.
He rubbed elbows with everyone. He was as comfortable with the prostitute as he was with the aristocrat. He saw the good, or at least the potential for good, in all. He partied at the wedding feast and he taught in the temple. He loved the saint and the sinner. How about you?
He was a living bridge and not a wall. He was a window and not a barricade. He was always the safe middle ground where all were accepted. All were welcome. All were loved. Such a far cry from so many of his followers today.
Are you safe? Are you welcoming? Do you listen? Do you try to walk in the shoes of the other…to see what they see and feel what they feel and understand why they may think and act the way they do? Without judgment and rejection? Do you still have more to learn…even from people with whom you have differences of opinion or conviction?
Do you draw people in or do you push them away? Are you known more for you love or your rhetoric?
Can I offer a suggestion? The more people are defined by right and left…liberal and conservative…pro this and con that…the greater the need for some people who can navigate from the middle. Followers of Christ who can understand and articulate and sympathize with both sides of the fence. Any fence.
We desperately need a new generation of believers who will not be bullied by anybody. Who will not be intimidated by new ideas or run scared by change. Who will not be frightened by people who are different…philosophies that are different…and even ideas that challenge our orthodox understandings of the church and doctrine.
The world we live in has changed. Technology has changed. The flow of information has changed. The rate of change has changed. But people still need to meet jesus.
And if that’s going to happen in the world as we know it now, we need to have people who can navigate the middle. The middle is where peace is forged, where compromise is found, where surprising friendships and new alliances are born. The middle is where people are drawn in, not alienated.
Will that be you? Will you be a person who navigates the middle?
(If you think this is a call for people to have no convictions and to take no stands, you have missed my point. Wholesale. I will always study to show myself approved by God and contend for the truth as I understand it with passion and determination. But I refuse to be a stumbling block to those who see things differently than I do. For me, living as Jesus lived and treating people the way he did must take priority.)