Thursday, July 9, 2015

Grace For the Church

As I sit here in my studio office this cozy, rainy Thursday morning (although... as cozy as the rain is, I would not mind some sunshine!!! Been raining like every day here in Michigan!!!), I feel compelled to write an honest reflection about the church.

There are other things I should be doing, but perhaps this is where God wants me this morning. Those of you who know me well, know I've been going to church my whole life... typical pastor's kid life: Dad was/is a well respected pastor, mother was the submissive tender hearted, supportive pastor's wife, and all of us kids lived life somewhat under a microscope. You know, the glass house scenario: there was always this pressure to be the 'perfect role model'. Needless to say, I have some really great memories of Church, and some not so good.

I've always been a TRUTH seeker. I've always questioned everything, especially if it did not make sense to me. As a pastors kid, I spent countless hours at my dad's feet learning about the Bible and the meaning behind certain scriptures. I also questioned certain practices the church had. Some I could fully understand, others I could not. I come from a rare breed of Christians called the "Anabaptists". They are a simple and peaceable people- they do not believe in violence of any kind, including going to war. They take very seriously to heart Jesus' words about loving your enemy. To this day, I still really appreciate and stand in agreement with this view point. But there were other things in the church I grew up in that I could never commit to- view points, practices, traditions that for me, don't line up with where I feel God wants me.

Now I'll say this: there is NO perfect church. If you've found one, you probably don't belong there because you and I are not perfect. No church has perfect theology, perfectly blameless and Godly staff, perfect services/sermons that meet our every needs- It just doesn't exist. Having said that, as I've grown older, and experienced other churches, I feel like I can see a theme in my life: Satan has always tried to attack this idea of "church" in my life. He's always been trying to keep me out of this place- I know this because of wounds I've carried (deep wounds) from "Christians"...from people in the church. In fact, people who have hurt me the most, the deepest, have all been Christians. I know it's completely unfair and illogical to expect that Christians will never hurt you, since after all, we're all just a bunch of sinners saved by Grace, but one would think- if God has done a miracle in someone's heart, that person would be a person of Grace and compassion like our Maker. The truth is- EVERYONE is at a different stage in their relationship with God. Every Christ-follower is on a journey. Some are just baby Christians, others have journeyed with God many many years and have great wisdom and divine understanding. Mind you, there are those people who have been walking with God for years but have never done any major heart work and so they are in fact still BABY Christians. And there are those who get baptized, and within a few months they're casting out demons and prophesying! ;-) Your spirituality can only grow as quickly or as often as you feed it!! Time is often irrelevant in the Christian journey. Anyways, I sort of digress, my point is, claiming the title "Christian" or labeling someone else "Christian" doesn't necessarily mean much. America claims to be a "Christian Nation"... and well, I need not say much more. Christians are still very capable of hurting people. The Church is very capable of hurting you and me. In fact, if you have not been hurt by the church, you probably haven't been going long enough.

I am in NO WAY giving excuses to Christians or the Church to be hurtful. God forbid. It is my prayer that the church ALWAYS be a safe place for others. It is my prayer that us Christ followers really live up to our calling; that we bombard this world with God's radical, unconditional love- and yet, I want to also remind myself and other fellow Christians, we must also have GRACE for ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are still on a journey. We are being perfected daily. I suppose what I mean to say through this blog is I've always had a huge heart of compassion for people who do not know the Lord. My grace, as far as I can imagine, is endless for them. And yet, when it comes to fellow brothers and sisters, when it comes to the Church, it's like my brain shuts off. I know they/we who follow Christ are called to a higher standard--- but WHY OH WHY do we struggle (and I know I'm not alone) with forgiving or not judging Christ followers more than any other 'kind' of person? Isn't that crazy?

I've felt so convicted this past while to be woman of God who creates UNITY within the body. As a musician, an artist who has sung in many different Churches, I am reminded all the time of how God wants all of us to be ONE!! I'm pretty sure God doesn't like all the little Church clubs we make. Google tells me there are about 33,000 Christian denominations. That is crazy. Absolutely crazy, haha!!! However, while the term "denomination" can seem synonymous for "devision", it doesn't have to be. I think it's beautiful to see Churches celebrating God in different ways. The problem comes when we look at or treat other Christians or churches like they're NOT a part of us.

God is convicting me to love His people. To LOVE his Church. My journey is not quite over either ;-) Despite my history of wounds from Churches, guess what I do each Sunday? Lead worship at Church, WITH the Church. If you knew me well, you'd say, "I can't believe you still go to Church". But I do. Because I LOVE the body of Christ. No, they/we are not perfect, but I am so thankful for a people that DESIRES to know God. Even if we don't get it right, the DESIRE is there. God's grace extends not only to the "sinner" ...but to the believers too. Brothers and sisters, what are we saying about others? What words do we speak about Church? Did you know it hurts our heavenly Father when we speak negatively about his people and His body? What is this world going to think about us when even God's people don't get a long? It's so easy to focus on the negative. Lets not forget all the works God has done in OUR heart. If you've been hurt before, remember the time(s) that YOU have hurt others. Lets be a people of Grace. Let's esteem others HIGHER than ourselves. John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another..."

When I read this prayer below, it makes me weep. It makes me weep because I think of the ways that I've failed to bring unity. I want to be a part of Jesus' kingdom. I want the UNITY that our Saviour has always wanted.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

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