Last night, I had the opportunity to talk with one of my best friends on the phone. She is from the Anabaptist faith and I am from the Evangelical faith, and we have the absolute best theological discussions! We were discussing life and faith and who God is, and if you have a friend like this, you know what a blessing it is to have these types of conversations with people who ‘get it’. We started talking about how many times we make God out to be this 1-D Being when He is far more complex than that, and my mind has been sitting on that conversation ever since.
This morning, on my way to work, I had my Iphone playing some Rich Mullins because I’ve been on his music’s kick recently. The songs that played were, “I See You”, “Brother’s Keeper”, “Screen Door”, “Hold Me Jesus”, and “If I Stand”. Lately, my voice has been healing from a diagnosis of acid reflex, and the sad part of this is, I can’t sing along with songs like I normally do. (I’m the type of person that pulls up to a stoplight with windows rolled up, music blaring, singing on top of my lungs, drumming on the steering wheel, in my own little world, and completely unaware that people can hear and see me. Yes, I’m one of THOSE drivers.) Since I can’t sing, I’ve been forced to listen a bit more intently to the songs I have playing, this is annoying and yet at the same time, this has been an excellent exercise for me.
As I was listening to the music and matching those lyrics up to the bits and pieces of what little I know about Mullins, I admitted to myself, “This Christian life is messy! Christian faith is messy!”
Sometimes, when the internet explodes with debates, as of late with gay marriage or the Confederate Flag (and by no means are politics the only culprit here, it’s just examples), I realize how messy this Christian life is. Yes, I have convictions and beliefs about various topics, and it’s so easy to reply in the same manner I am offended in, and I see many that do (it’s truly an easy trap to fall into, I know, speaking from experience). Yet, as I take a step back from these types of situations, and I see two sides ‘have at it’, I truly see how much we want to see life so plain and black and white, and how 1-Dimensational we want to make God. However, I don’t even understand the complexities of my own family, how in the heck am I to know God completely and utterly, when He has got to be far more complex?
Mullins once said, “We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing.” I wish we could come to this understanding. It’s important we use a methodology and structure when we study the Scriptures, don’t misunderstand me, but there’s a point we need to come to and say that we are imperfect, fallible, and pea brain humans, and it is impossible to know everything there is out there to know about God. It’s important we have convictions, but when we become so ridiculously firm on those convictions to the point we will not listen to anyone else and set out to humiliate the opposing viewpoint, then we are not secure in our faith and we are not good witnesses of the Gospels of Jesus Christ.
And if there is anyone who lived out a messy Christian life, it was Jesus Christ Himself. He sat with the outcasts of His day: the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the lame, and the sick. Yes, He was a Jewish man who did duties in the Temple like all the other traditional Jews of His day, but He also reached out to the ostracized like the Samaritans, and He healed anyone who called on His Name, including a Roman soldier’s family. If there is anything I learn from Christ, is that if I want a cute black and white box of life answers, where everything is figured out with one or two verses with a bow on top, and I never have to put up with the ‘other guy’, then I shouldn’t be a Christian. God has called us to a very complex mission, and the Kingdom of God, in the here in now is extremely messy. Someday, it will be cleaned out, but that won’t happen until the Lord’s return, so in the meantime let’s just admit, it’s messy.
Another one of Mullin’s quotes I appreciate is, “Christianity is not about building an absolute secure little niche in the world, where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children, in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved, and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” I’m sure we all nod our heads in agreement with Mullins, but do we live it out?
About a year ago, someone made it clear to me that he was more interested in being right than he was interested in loving me, and I was hurt. In response, I’m doing the only thing I know how to do, and that is to turn ashes into beauty with the help of God. In other words, I refuse to do that same kind of hurt to someone else. I will do my absolute best to love others more than I love being right. Being right is born from arrogance and pride. Loving others no matter what our differences of belief are, is a messy job that I have to keep reminding myself of what I am doing and why. It takes more faith and grace that I’m not sure I am always capable of doing in my life, which only proves I need God more. Proving I’m right, doesn’t prove to me I need God at all, it just proves I need proof to determine my rightness.
And in the end, love is what brings people to God. Not preaching to others, not telling others how to live, not trying to prove something, but love. Mullins said it well, “I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts.” Frankly, I’m more interested in being nuts and bolts, than I am interested in explaining nuts and bolts without someone asking me to explain first.
No, I am not saying we shouldn’t stand up or that we should hide in a corner. What I am saying is we need to be people who are wise in picking fights, not being the person who HAS to have the last word, and we need to be people who respond in care and love, rather than in anger or pride. And I’m in a point in my life where I don’t know if I’m supposed to stand for WHAT is right or if it’s a question of whether or not I’m willing to stand up for the WHO is outcaste in our society? (And no, I do not consider Christians to be the outcasts of society.) And there are other Christians around me who see things differently than I, a fellow Christian does, and that doesn’t necessarily make the other guy wrong. So what is the answer to all this?
I honestly have to admit, I don’t know… I have no idea…
God is too complex for me to fully grasp no matter how simple I want to make Him. So, I’m sticking to loving God and loving others…. And frankly, that in itself, is the messiest thing I’ll ever do in this life and it will require faith beyond what I have today…
That’s all I know for sure…