Who am I Lord, I ask him, to even think I can write these words? What could I possibly know about the subject that you have enlightened upon me? What if I'm wrong? What if I'm just a figment of my own imagination and the words that are on the tip of my tongue will choke me instead? What if I'm hated? What if I'm banished from my family? What if I'm left alone, sentenced to a life of no party invites, the awkward relative everyone tries to avoid or pawn off on the next unknowing victim?
Those are the thoughts that stop me.
Until the other day when I stupidly watched and read one or twenty too many posts and videos and comments beneath what happened in Chicago the other night and in Kansas the next day.
So this is for you, Church. This is the way I see it. This is what I have gleaned from careful and meticulous study of our Lord's words over the past 25 years. (No boasting here, believe me, there are many things I would have much rather be doing then be the bible nerd).
It is not the fault of any of these people or things or entities.
It's our fault, Church. We started it.
It started with good intentions. Luther had the best of intentions when he opened up the locked word of God and translated it for the common person. Wesley had good intentions. So did Guttenburg. So did Calvin and all the other boys through the centuries who have been touched by the Spirit of God through the Word of God, the only means He has given any of us to understand or clarify his will and follow His Holy Spirit.
We've divided, we've fought, we've split, we've talked badly, we've judged, we've ridiculed, we've hurt - we have, Church. We have.
We have found that it is more important to be right than it is to love rightly. We have found that mercy is only really for those who believe it the right way, or say it the right way or worship the right way.
So when we find the "right" way, we fight for the right of the right way.
We've had our church splits over carpet, over doctrine, over women's roles, over sinning leaders. We've had our hearts broken by what should be done and isn't, and what is done and shouldn't.
We are the reason there is division in our world. (I know, I know, you're saying, "No Ronda, it's not that, it's sin. That's why there is division." Ok, just roll with me please. We can't blame it all on the sin blanket. Sin in us, yes, but sin still is not an excuse....for the child of God).
Jesus promised it. He said, "I came not to bring peace, but division." We shouldn't be surprised. We really need not be angered by the violent divisions that are becoming even more fractured and bleeding.
We started it. Not us literally in 2016, but the line of believers from the very first century, or maybe Luther's time at least, when infant man got his hands on divine words, we are the reason division is on the course it's on.
The world is not going to learn how to get along because the Church, the Body of Christ himself doesn't get along!
The Church doesn't get along because it's bride doesn't recognize the sweet voice of her bridegroom.
The Church is stuck in arguments dating back at least 700 years. Give or take a few hundred. And now the arguments have added politics and rights to the mix of trying to make them all fit in light of God's holy and true word.
Repentance doesn't start with the world, Church. Repentance starts with the Church. Repentance doesn't wait for the other guy to start either. Repentance starts with me. We can't play the playground game of waiting for the other one to say, "Sorry" first. We have hurt our loving God's heart by our own stubbornness, our own arrogance, our own need to be right, our own fear of admitting when we're wrong.
I absolutely hated when my children fought. Hated it. There was nothing worse for a mother than to see my children mad at each other and refusing to budge or bend or give in or wait for the other to start. I hated it. I would rather have cleaned up vomit from all three for a month then to watch and feel the pain of my children fighting.
I think I'm like my Heavenly Father in that.
He doesn't approve of the fighting. He gets why you take your stands, why you stand up for certain doctrine. He gets that. But he doesn't approve of your quick division. He doesn't favor His children looking for who is more right or less wrong then the other. He loves all his children. He loves all life.
ALL LIVES MATTER TO HIM!!
Church, it's not that you have believed a lie, it's that you haven't sought truth. You've let others seek it for you. You've let others study it for you and then tell you what they learn. You let others be the Bible thumpers while you cower in embarrassment. You let others believe you have all the answers and let them think you do.
Truth is truth, but, Church....none of us have it all right, and all of us have much of it wrong. When we have absorbed and marinated and basted ourselves in the gospel in every facet of our daily life then, maybe then, you'll have the opportunity to judge someone else...when you're old and on your deathbed, if even then you're ready.
You can continue on in your bickering and silent judging over which doctrine is the most important after the gospel or which political candidate is most biblical. Have fun. Go ahead.
You can have your discussion on whose practice of the sacraments is right or wrong, you can keep the wrong people in and the right people out forever, you can wonder how someone of another political party is a true Christian all you want....but it's not gospel.
You can make a list in your statement of belief and say, "Only if you agree to this 100% will you be allowed membership." And so the one or two or ten people who can see about 80% because the Holy Spirit has not given the remaining 20% just yet, stay away.
And they seek out people to fill a hole only God can fill.
They seek out astrology and materialism and sexual impurities hoping to find the cork that will drown out the questions and the longings of their hearts. They seek out political candidates and parties to give them purpose and meaning, rather than believing fully the purpose God has already planned for their life, long before they were born.
They cling to rhetoric that sounds good on the surface, that choices belong to the one who has to make them, that what is good for Followers of Jesus is acceptable for those who disdain his will. They see us fighting and chiming in and taking sides and calling names and judging faith and they either cower or point their long fingers and say, "Seeeeeeeee! Hypocrites!" They see us call evil good and good evil. They see us take stands when we should sit and remain sitting when we should stand.
It's not them, Church. It's us.
So go ahead, 2016 believers. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep judging, keep ridiculing, keep arguing. Pretty soon no life will matter. Soon we will be facing our Lord and Savior. Oh, that none of us hear him say, "Away from me you evil doer," after we've given him the list of things we have done in his name and for his sake.
We have not loved. We have not acted justly in all things. We have not shown mercy enough. We have not loved enough. We have not studied the full counsel of God enough. We have not suffered for the sake of the gospel enough, like the Gospel suffered for us. We have not been a slave to Jesus Christ but instead a slave to our own ideas and fears and wishes and dreams.
(It's not fun writing this. I promise you, it's not. And believe me, these words are hitting me just as hard).
God found me, in the pit of religion, and pulled me out into the sunshine of relationship with Him. God looked down into the pit of sin and shame I was drowning in and pulled me out into the glorious light of His mercy and grace. Even when I had none of it right, even when I still have most of it probably wrong, He loves me enough to free me from my own blindness.
Jesus said, "Consider the cost of following him." I've considered it. I've weighed my options. I've made hard choices. I can sit and nod and smile and tell you what makes you feel good but doesn't lead you to a deep relationship with him, or I can vomit today and risk your anger.
Vomit stinks. Truth hurts. I've had to smell some pretty bad chunks and feel the pain of some really hard truths over the years. It's not fun. It's not easy. It's down right painful and blinding at times. But when my eyes adjust as they come into the Light and out of the darkness, the pain begins to diminish and I begin to see more clearly His hand clenching mine tightly.
I see him walking with me when I didn't know he was even there or even believed he cared. I see him crying with me, rejoicing with me, loving me even when I'm dead wrong. I see him pulling mercy out of that big bucket of his and pouring it on me over and over and over again.
So, when you get over being offended and annoyed or whatever it is you are feeling right now, I hope you come back and read this again. I hope if you do come back, that you see the love and hope and excitement and joy I want you to have that can only come through true repentance. It's not about saying you're sorry. It's about regretting hurting God's heart, the heart of our sweet Heavenly Dad. He knows our feelings get hurt from time to time, but it hurts him when we don't care how much it hurts him to see us fight. He knows we care deeply about the issues of the day or at least at the top of the hour. He knows what is hidden in the knotted mess of American politics. He knows the way we should take and when He has tested us we will shine like gold.
It's time to stop. Stop talking and listen. Stop commenting and liking. It's time to start. Start reading and thinking and searching and searching some more. It's not for anyone's sake that you do this but for your own. Donald Trump or Hillary or Bernie or anyone else for that matter is never going to be the one to say to you with deep love, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
(Take a deep breath. . . . . . . . . In through your nose, out through your mouth. Feel His steady hand on your back, following your breathing, clearing your mind of earthly concerns and pointing your eyes to his view.)
Church, our fighting is hurting our Dad! Our fighting is causing the world to fight harder and more violently! What if the cure for getting along started with God's own kids getting along? What if instead of criticizing, we pray? What if instead of commenting, we put up the praying hands emoji? No one cares what you think but everyone wants to be heard. Unfortunately we can't hear when we're doing all the talking.
(Man, God, you're laying it on me here. Gulp.)
What if............? It'd be a wild ride, wouldn't it? But Truth is always worth it.
The peace that passes all understanding is the peace I wish for you my friends,