Monday, July 22, 2013

Being a Christian in a Racially Divided World...

Being a Christian in a racially divided world comes with great responsibility.

You see, we don’t get to pick a side and stand on the street with a bull horn yelling “THIS IS WHY WE HATE ALL OF YOU!!!” We don’t get to wage in hatred driven commentary that further divides a nation while reliving past pain that has been grandfathered into our present society. It’s not even productive to try to defend evil out of a guilty conscience or lack of understanding. Being a Christian in a racially divided world simply means choosing the greatest way of all…the way of love.

I realize how frustrating that is to hear for some of you. The truth is, when we speak of race and the history of this nation, love does not seem to be the foundation. When people want to boast on the greatness of America (specifically Christians) I sincerely hope that it comes with repentance. True greatness is not gained by the disenfranchisement of others (ask the Native Americans how great this country is.) It does not take from the innocent for personal gain. True greatness is not rooted in pride or greed and it certainly doesn't need to enslave an entire culture in order to build a legacy. I don’t believe that our Jewish brothers and sisters woke up each morning in Egypt thousands of years ago and exclaimed: “This is the greatest country on earth!” while slaving to their deaths at the hand of evil rulers.  If you can see that, then you can certainly understand why Black Americans have a hard time claiming America’s greatness while still hearing the screams of ancestral pain.

Being a Christian does not mean participating in blind patriotism while turning our heads the other way when America is at its absolute worst state in decades. It does not mean ignoring the obvious and continuing with church business as usual, increasing attendance, launching new building projects, numbers, numbers, numbers…while the rest of the country is full of despair.

It cannot continue to mean that we chose neutrality or silence in the face of racial adversity. And it certainly does not mean insisting on an inferior or superior race mentality. It does not apply the entitlement theory to every disparaging situation and it cannot assume that only two races exist in this country when countless others work, live and sacrifice everyday on this same soil.

Being a Christian in this climate does not mean that we hide behind a barrage of scriptures in order to support our opinions and theories while lacking the God-given instinct to pray in the midst of this madness.  It is not impressed with who came up with the better argument and who has more rights than others. It doesn't applaud the punishment of a culture by not allowing the same rights as the majority, simply because “we were here first.” By the way,saying "we were here first" in this country, will ALWAYS be a lie unless you are Native American. Not a favorable truth but the truth nonetheless.

Being a Christian in a racially divided world means seeking truth at all times. Asking God to search our hearts and cleanse us from prejudice, hatred, unforgiveness and yes even a murderous spirit. If in fact the sins of the fathers are handed down to the fourth generation…then we MUST pray and repent.
I remember hearing from an older blood relative to never trust white people. At the moment I was put off by the statement because I was determined to carve out my own social paths in life by not carrying any unwanted baggage with me. I decided to ignore the statement and take my chances.

Years later with many opportunities to buy into that bit of advice along the way, I have found that a person is either trustworthy or not simply based on the spirit that resides within them and not the color of their skin. That’s not the only race lesson that I've learned throughout my life.

I have come to study the Abolitionist movement with as much interest as I study the sadness of slavery in America. I have fallen in love with many cultures, languages and yes the beautiful food that represents them and I am raising my children with a multicultural perspective even when diversity is still scarce in our environment.

By the way, diversity is not a pet project for the socially elite…it’s simply a mirror reflection of what heaven looks like. You don’t launch diversity campaigns, you begin your foundation with the desire to serve and be a part of all cultures. In short, diversity simply does not work as a back end project. If it was never in the heart of the vision (whatever that vision may be) it will never be a tightly woven tapestry of beauty in your ministry. Repentance is the key to change when it comes to diversity. After we repent, then we write out a new vision and begin again.

I am by no means saying that I don't experience the frustration and anger that comes with witnessing the behavior that comes with the racial divide. And I am tempted to enter into the conversations about our current climate from time to time but I try to let a cooler head prevail. Prayer helps.

Of all the experiences that I've had, people that I've met and conversations that I have been a part of, the discussion I love the most is based on a mutual admiration for the love of our Savior. When we all meet at the cross bringing our ethnicity, languages, experiences (good and bad) with us, we form a bridge of unity while receiving healing at the same time. When we leave behind our denominations, political viewpoints and socioeconomic statuses, the bridge becomes stronger and unity becomes the structural support.

When we cease to involve ourselves in the discussions of hatred, mindless finger pointing or the refusal to take the moment to stand in someone else’s shoes, we become more palpable to the world that we are trying to influence. 

So you see, being a Christian in a racially divided world means being a bridge; a solid structure that one can cross with confidence and peace to get to a God who created us ALL...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Thank God for Grace and a Good Mirror!

One of the most incredible stories of my life has been the time when I first experienced God for myself. It was as pure and as unadulterated as a God experience could be. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had just been introduced to the Great I AM.

I was alone, in my apartment, crying on my knees, completely lost in pain and depression. I spoke aloud to a God who I hoped was there and right in the midst of my wrenching sobs…a calm came over me that was out of this world, literally.

I was not a Christian, did not attend church, did not believe in attending church and could care less about the “process of religion”. But I was desperate for the pain in my life to cease, and He showed up.

Over the years I joined a church, publicly ‘gave my life to Christ’, got baptized, busied myself in church activities and so on.

While I believe that those things were part of a greater purpose for my life, I wasn't always on the ‘right track’ in the midst of my new found and extremely active church life.  There were plenty of days when I felt like a failure, that I couldn't keep up spiritually, that I would never overcome certain obstacles and sins in my life, that I wasn't good enough, or pure enough, or just plain enough to represent God.

There was always a comparison going on in my mind with the ‘elite’ of the church who got to run Bible studies and women’s groups or prayer groups. I had been interviewed but never ‘chosen’ to take the lead in such things because (I imagine) I just couldn't seem to be the image that goes along with such privileges. It seemed that this God that had met me on my living room floor in my tiny apartment so many years ago had far too many demands that I could not keep up with, and He had no time for an average sinner like me anymore. It seemed that I embarrassed Him or His image far too easily and I couldn't wear my Christian badge without getting smudges on it. It was as if I was ‘saved’ only to feel ashamed of my own existence once again.

Now, those of you who truly have an organic walk with God know that those feelings did not come from Him but they came from my internal dialogue, the enemy of my soul and yes, the religion that I immersed myself in.

It has taken a GIANT step back from all that has become familiar to me by way of Christianity to regain my footing and once again walk with the God who visited my apartment many years ago. It has taken much failure, to understand His mercy, which is a humbling and needed experience in order to be a compassionate person once again.

You understand that with religion sometimes comes a sanctimonious mindset that sets oneself above others, particularly “unbelievers and people of the world” (which are labels, tags and misconceptions about people we don’t really know.) I would have easily fit those categories many years ago. Fortunately, there was one person in my life at the time who never made me feel like an “unbeliever” but simply a friend and she didn't always bombard me with invitations to her church when we talked. Sometimes we simply talked about life.

When I listen to Christian dialogue now, I sometimes cringe at the way we shout to the roof tops our beliefs on social media and in any other forum that we may be heard from, without so much as listening to the hearts of other people around us. It’s as if we are so spiritually fragile that we think that listening to someone else’s heart or opinion may damage us for life. It may just do so, if your foundation is purely made from an inherited belief as opposed to having a true encounter.

I find it hard to believe that in the midst of Jesus eating with “sinners” that he never once listened to their hearts, looked at the pain in their eyes and was moved with compassion to show love and mercy.

I sometimes see scriptures plastered on social media in what sounds like an angry voice or with condemning intent, in order to convict others but done so with an enormous lack of compassion and love for the hurting people all around us. Such behavior is often doing more harm than good and creates a greater resentment for those of us who use the term Christian to describe ourselves.

We forget to share our own stories and struggles because either we feel that we have come just that far from imperfection, or we were simply born into Christianity and have inherited this way of life from our family, so we can’t relate to anyone but other believers.

We use our own personal convictions, such as what we eat, when we fast, our choice of entertainment, what we do on Sunday mornings etc… as a banner to show others the life they should be living. We find it easier to control with our message than to love from our hearts, people who are making different choices than us. And we call our way right as long as there is scripture to support it.

I can honestly say that I would have probably never walked into a church building or become a friend of Christianity had God sent a ‘Super Saint’ my way who did not have any faults and failures of her own. The mere fact that her life was so humble and open, yet she was able to speak the name of Jesus as if she truly knew Him, floored me. I grew up believing that if you weren't the best example of living pure and holy, then you were no example at all. Thank God for truth.

I have a loooong way to go with my approach to living out my faith. I don’t always say the right things when challenged, not by the world but by other Christians. I seem to understand the outside viewpoint more than I do the “inside” mindset, mainly because of never feeling quite “good enough” within those four walls.

So, my conflict is in reverse. I don’t see the need of always bragging about my moral stand when I know good and well that I only have a moral stand because of the grace of God. I don’t in anyway feel superior about my life choices because they are different from the current cultures, simply because in one instant my life can change and I could be standing face to face with a decision that I never had to make before. It’s by the grace of God that I will know what to do.

Having been on both sides of the glass, this I know for sure: a stone can be thrown on either side but all it will do is shatter the walls, and injure the innocent, while causing more harm than good.

May we all come to understand the loving power of true humility…