I just finished a book that I love called Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I would highly recommend it. I could share with you about a hundred great lines from the book, but there is one excerpt near the end of the book that really resonated with me. It speaks to me about what church and faith should be about and what it often is instead.
The most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the "un" and "non", they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either.
Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn't really love, is it? It's something else. We have to rediscover love, period. Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender our agendas....
I am challenged by these passages on many levels. What agendas do I need to surrender? Do I show favoritism to my Christian brothers and sisters...worrying more about caring for them because they are part of the "in" crowd? How am I contributing to the church giving itself away in "radical acts of service and compassion"? In fact, how do I represent Jesus' church in the world? How do I share Jesus' love in the world?
If those passages challenged me, the author's words below give me hope that I am still in the process of becoming who God intends for me to be:
And one thing to keep in mind is that we never arrive. Ever. One of the illusions of faith is that at some point we get it all mapped out and things get smooth and predictable. It is not true. The way of Jesus is a journey, not a destination. On a journey, the scenery changes. A lot. We can prepare for some things, but not all. We make mistakes, figure it out as we go along, and try new things. Failures are just opportunities to learn.
Thanks for going on this journey with me!