Relationship with Jesus should be more like a relationship and less like a pop quiz.
Sharing Jesus can come across like hurling bricks at a stranger.
Imagine that we who have found faith are walking upon a solid foundation through life. The ground at our feet is like the roads paved with gold in Revelation. That road is like a perfect set of golden bricks, laid out in neat little rows. Those who have not yet found the sure foundation of the love of God are like people wandering about on sheets of ice all around the road. Why they have not yet stepped foot on solid ground may vary – perhaps it is fear of the unknown or maybe they just have not found it yet.
Evangelism in the church tends to look one of two ways. On one side, some don’t want to bother others with what is clearly our own preference – maybe others like slipping and sliding through life. It’s not for them to push an agenda if others don’t want the path for themselves. On the other side are those who take seriously the call to welcome all to the path. And, seeing the struggle that others go through, they take a brick up from the road, hurl it through the air, and thereby show those on the ice how much more solid the path is than the ice. Of course, plenty of people will be blindsided by flying bricks. Even those who try to catch that one small piece of foundation are pretty likely to face plant in the midst of the attempt. The motivation may be good, but the likelihood of positive change is tiny.
The message of the cross is that Jesus left the path for our sake. He came to us when we had no sure foundation on which to stand, invited us to climb on his back, and carries us for as long as needed to trust that we have been brought to solid ground. Evangelism for Christians can never be ignored, but it also cannot be a means of shouting words at others like hurling bricks in the air. Evangelism properly conceived is the process whereby those on the sure foundation venture onto the ice and offer whatever it takes until all have found that the foundation is sure and the ice is no more.
There are at least two cycles that happen often in abusive relationships. One is well researched and is being endlessly repeated before our very eyes on a daily basis. The other is perhaps less obvious and less defined by research but certainly no less harmful, problematic, or uncommon.
The second cycle happens when the abused expresses a negative feeling about the abuse to the abuser and the abuser expresses that they are hurt that the abused would express being hurt by the abuser. A healthy person in a relationship knows that when someone expresses hurt feelings, the natural order of response is to listen first, apologize second, and work out any related issues or mutual hurt thereafter.
Part of the reason abusive behavior is so insidious and harmful is because abusers are so skillful at gaslighting victims into assuming that the abuse they have suffered is actually a response to their own actions and a source of pain for the abuser. When the reality of who is actually being harmed is called into question, victims often begin to blame themselves and find it all the more difficult to leave the abusive relationship. To seek outside advice is often to be reminded that both sides have contributed to the harm. While mutual harm is almost always present in some regard, the conflation of a broken nose with the bruised hand that broke the nose is a particularly cruel form of whataboutism.
This same dynamic is present in societal discussions of racism and sexual violence. Historically and systemically oppressed people groups are saying that they are hurt and the groups historically and systemically responsible for that hurt respond by saying that they are hurt that the hurt people are expressing their historical and systemic hurt. It is a pernicious form of societal gaslighting and abuse that we so often refuse to listen long enough for others to feel heard and valued, much less safe enough to fight through to the attainment of something resembling healing or justice.
In our current moment, the historically and systemically oppressed have finally stopped backing down when the desire for change has been met by accusations that claims of being hurt are in themselves hurtful to those causing the harm. The day may come when phrases like #blm or #metoo elicit more compassion and change from the powerful than fear and retaliation, but we are not nearly there yet. If long term change is ever to become a possibility, one of the starting lines is for us white men to break this cycle that is born out of the fragility of our collective ego. Mistakes are a part of life – learning to grow and heal requires that we embrace the power of vulnerability rather than lash out when our self perception is challenged.
Whether we’re concerned with technical theological terms or popular seasonal greetings, the words we use matter because the God we worship lives. Our words are either an aid or hindrance to seeing the living God; the One Word Who changed everything.
One word is the difference in our life together. One Word is the difference between love and hate, between light and darkness, between life and death. One Word makes all the difference.
Love because God first loved us. Love in the way that God first loved us.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
A follower of Jesus looks a lot more like a fool in love than a professional in control…
We are invited to be fools in love with the Lord, living in the knowledge that all is set right in Christ, even when all the world seem to be more broken each day. We’re invited to embrace our weaknesses when the whole world seems to assume that might makes right. When the world tells us to lie and to hide our true selves behind possessions or jobs or trophies – we’re invited to be vulnerable, sharing our stories, exposing our wounds because through the wounded body of Christ, the whole world finds healing.
At the heart of our faith is a God who has a really annoying habit of doing just about everything the wrong way. God doesn’t give prepackaged answers to life’s most challenging questions. God rarely, if ever, wraps things up in a nice and tidy bow so that we always know the one, right, only way forward. At the heart of our faith is a God who said I love you so much that I will die for you. I am powerful enough that I will lay down all that I am and all that I have to be by your side through all that is to come.
In a world without simple, clear answers around every corner, there is no other sure foundation than the love and acceptance of King Jesus. Without that foundation, fear is all we have left. Upon that foundation, there is no challenge or problem or unknown pathway too daunting. Embracing the cross of Christ means embracing the challenge to give up control and learn to trust in the Lord.