I'm sitting here in my living room, it's 10:30 at night, I got home from youth a little while ago and I've been introspective tonight, as I usually become when I feel I don't have the grace needed to show it to those around me. It's of course not from someone else doing something, just simply I'm not in the proper frame of mind to handle things that I don't want to. So I withdraw and think upon the issues, I should converse with God in the midst of it but recently I can't say that's my first instinct.
But tonight as I squirm in my skin at the thought of how I can be and think upon what's going on, it came to mind that I should simply approach the throne of grace in my time of needing grace.
I find it far easier to understand the grace of God for others than I do for me. One can commit the most heinous of crimes and I can see the need for God's grace in that person's life and am more than willing to express that to them (of course it's hypothetical, I've not known anyone to commit what I might consider "heinous" crimes) but find it hard to grasp this concept for my own life. That God would have grace and mercy on me is almost beyond my comprehension.
But as I sit here, thinking about grace, I thought it necessary to read something from Scripture in hopes that I may hear some whisper from the Almighty.
I traveled through the short book of 1 John, mainly because it's short, but also because I remember talking about it with someone recently though I don't remember the context of the discussion. Though the thought came to me with no real connection to the text, a connection would come eventually. I couldn't help but wonder how in the world so many hateful crimes, eras, people and occasions could be developed in the midst of something so symphonic in nature. What I mean to say is that I am completely taken aback by all of the things that can be traced back to someone's interpretation of the Bible, that have destroyed lives throughout history in such a negative tone.
Of course, when one doesn't know how to properly interpret Scripture, context is destroyed and the message skewed, but it's troublesome for me to think about how often hate has come from a message so full of love, one that calls a person to a life that is generous and giving and not leeching.
It even causes me to try to grasp how so many places that claim to be the "body of Christ" are in practice the very opposition of what they claim to be. I don't believe that I'm jaded...well not on church as a whole anyway. That is, I haven't had bad experience with "church" to give me some sort of bitter outlook on it. But like I said, I don't believe that I'm jaded, I am simply disturbed by the seemingly vast numbers of people who show up to churches in North America on weekends or even during the week for the sake of tradition or ritual and completely miss the point. It causes my heart to ache.
How has the one place that should be welcoming and inviting to those who feel like they don't deserve the very breath inside them because of something they've done to someone else or themselves become the place that scares them away? How has "church" become the place where people put on their "sunday best" and paint on a smile, in hopes that people won't find out how screwed up their lives really are? How has the support network of true "Christian" fellowship turned into the breeding ground for distasteful humor and gossip that destroys?
It's around here that the connection to 1 John started to become more clear to me. This is a letter written to instruct a group of people (it's not entirely clear what group) on what it looks like, practically, to follow Christ and what love really means. As I read 1 John and think upon many church communities that I have experienced and some that I've heard of, the two pictures don't seem to line up with one another.
I starting to believe that "institution" as many know has no place within the parameters of the faith. It's not a matter of institution or rules or religiosity, it's a matter of life. If, according to 1 John, the evidence of God in our lives is to love others.......how many of us really can say that God is in us?
I'm terrified to admit that there are times when my life is completely or near completely devoid of that presence.
So if evidence of God in our lives is to love others, should our "churches" not be the very place that sin can be openly brought to light (of course, there are definitely things that don't need to be shared with an entire congregation, in fact it's not healthy to do so. But I am speaking as a matter of general principle) without fear of disownment or verbal abuse or hatred?
I think it's the "holier than thou" attitude that I am addressing...it can't exist if we are living as true biblical communities, it just can't. But alas, it seems to.
I honestly grieve over this thought and certainly hope to contribute in a positive manner to the shift that I believe needs to take place, not giving into the lie of "saving face".
It is for these reasons that I really appreciate some of Derek Webb's solo musical work, for he writes the words of my heart on this issue. take a look at his songs "New Law" and "King and a Kingdom" and you'll understand what I mean.
People may not read this, but it's now officially a burden that I do not carry inwardly.