Most of the messages I get are either encouraging or hateful. I am happy to receive them both. The encouraging ones, well, they encourage me. While the hateful ones serve to strengthen my resolve and spur me onward.
I love being loved and I somewhat enjoy being hated.
After all, isn't that what Jesus said would happen. Just sayin'...
However, a couple of weeks ago, I received a disturbing message.
Disturbing not because of its hostility. No, not at all. In fact, unlike many other private messages I receive, this particular one didn't call me any names. It didn't promise or wish violence toward me or my children. It didn't include a proclamation of hatred or disdain.
It was from a mother, from a Christian pastor's wife, from a lovely gal with whom I share a mutual, precious friend.
I have decided not to share the entire message thread because some of the content is personal and I would never violate anyone's confidence or divulge anything that might suggest identity. However, some of the passages of the lengthy message struck me, bothered me and troubled me more deeply than others. For example,
Over the past couple of weeks, I went through my blogs, all of them, and looked for references to love. And guess what? I found loads of them. I have repeatedly professed my love for people, all people. And, I haven't just said it...I have shown love to people in the face of verbal condemnation and anger. I have been kind and courteous in spite of their name calling, out right blasphemy, threats to my safety, character assassination, Facebook unfriendings and blatant rudeness.
I have been respectful. Well, wait, that isn't entirely true. I have been mostly respectful. I can't help myself when it comes to human travesties like Wendy Davis, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Osama Bin Laden, ISIS, etc. Some people and groups don't warrant respect, and therefore, I find it difficult, quite impossible in fact, to bestow it upon them,
The Lord commands me to love. Not like or respect people. Simply love them.
And love, yes, love, I have shown. I have been open about my own failures, my own faults, my own missteps. I have been honest, often to the dismay of my private family, about my personal struggles and sin. Remember the abortion blog?
Truly, I am filled with love. And I give it freely and without regard to lifestyle, beliefs or temperament towards me.
I have never used Jesus or the cross as an "anvil". Never. But thank you, dear sender of this message, for introducing me to that fabulous term. I had to look "anvil" up in my handy dandy dictionary and was delighted to add that cool word to my vocabulary.
Well, of course, I responded to this well-spoken, kind worded dissenter. I basically thanked her for reading my thoughts and for being so diplomatic in her tone and response. Truly, I can take criticism all day long. I gently informed her that as sorry as I was that she interpreted my words in that way, that I wouldn't change my rhetoric. And that if I were being completely honest, I don't give a rat's rear end what she or anyone else thinks of me.
However, I must admit, her criticism touched a nerve and was hurtful to me and especially hard to swallow. You see, we, this well spoken messenger and me, we both love Jesus. We both want to do a good work. We are both part of the Body of Christ and with the Lord's help and guidance, both desire to accomplish tremendous things for His Kingdom. And when I pointed these commonalities out to her--that our beliefs are the same, our love the same, our Truth the same, but that our methodology was simply different--she responded with this:
Wow. Just wow. So, because I don't belief in gay marriage, have an issue with transgender bathroom usage, think the riots in Baltimore were reprehensible (these were some of the issues she had with me) and in turn, voice my disagreement with or frustration toward these things, I obviously haven't read the Bible?
Yeah, wow. So, I am the one with the issue. I am the one who is needs truth and peace and grace. Truly, I didn't know what to say. And I am not normally rendered speechless.
And just for clarity's sake, I have read the Bible. All of it. Not just the Old Testament and the law. Not just the Gospels and the good news. All of it. In fact, we, my husband and I, read the Bible almost every single night out loud with our children. Thank you very much.
But all snarkiness aside, this gal was truly a class act. I am not being facetious. She knew her words could and probably would be hurtful to me and she was sorry for that. She felt compelled, based on her love for all people, to write me a message highlighting her issues with my views and rhetoric and did so with the greatest amount of tact and respect. And I appreciate that.
This message was a lot of things but it definitely was NOT unfair. When you put yourself out there like I do, you willing open yourself up for all sorts of rejection, encouragement, ridicule and hurt. When I began this blogospheric journey a little over a year ago, I knew I would receive comments and messages that were less than flattering.
However, this private message thread from a spiritual, faithful woman with a heart for Christ made me pause.
This, y'all, this chasm between believers, is why the church is dying. The church has become cannibalistic. We eat our own. We divide and split over the color of carpet and interior paint colors. Some of us think one form of baptism is preferred to the other. Some of us think music is necessary while others think it not so. We fight over budgets, missions and worship styles. We debate how often communion should be taken and how theatrical a worship service can and should be. We disagree about women being ordained. Some of us like preachers in robes or suits and ties or ratty jeans and Polos. Some churches condemn political involvement as secular and a lack of faith, while other churches are violating their 501C3 statuses every single Sunday. We base our support (or lack thereof) of the preacher on whether he attended a prestigious seminary or is a layman or bivocational minister. We have home groups instead of Sunday School classes or Sunday School classes instead of home groups.
The options are limitless.
The church has more to offer than ever before and less people interested in taking advantage of it.
We are becoming irrelevant. We are dying a slow and painful death.
And now, in these extremely crucial modern times, we have taken to destroying each other for speaking uncomfortable truths. Some believers and church bodies have decided to alienate some of our brothers and sisters in Christ for the sake of appealing to those who reject Jesus or pervert His truths.
There are many in the church who are appalled by this 'theological softening' of Christians. And then there are others who are pushing the church even closer to the edge. Apostate preachers holding hands with homosexual non-believers mocking God about same sex relations and "the kiss heard round the world". Television evangelists misconstruing the Gospel and making it about individuals and the supposed biblical promises of prosperity. Yeah, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, I'm talking to you.
The modern church is filled with good, God-fearing believers who believe that no stance should be taken and/or verbalized against anything. They subscribe to what I call "kumbaya theology". This type of ministry is all about holding hands, loving, singing and giving grace. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and cozy?
And then, there are of course the "hell, fire and brimstoners". I am often accused of being in this camp of theological thinking. These are the people in the Body who tell everyone they are wrong and going to Hell. Obviously, this is not a winning tactic for reaching a vast majority of the lost or wayward.
In fact, both ways of operating are tremendously flawed and are responsible for not only the decline of the church but for the perversion of God's Word.
The Kumbaya-ers are correct in many regards. There is a lot of love in the New Testament. A lot. There is a lot of grace and mercy and love. Jesus was love personified. He was also however, according to John 14:6, "the Way, the Truth and the Life". (Please take note of the second mentioned attribute.)
The Hell, Fire, and Brimstoners also have a good theological argument. There is a lot of sin listed in scripture--both the Old Testament and the New. Christ didn't come, live, died and arise again to remove sin from the world. His blood, if accepted, cleanses us of the sin in our lives. But we are called, once saved, to sin no more. We are called to live in this world but not be of it. We are called to be different, to be set apart. Obviously, this proves tricky and impossible. We are human and fallible and need Jesus and His never-ending mercy.
After all, the church is the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ. Process that for a moment. Yeah, that's big. That's deep. That's no joke. Therefore, we shouldn't, in the face of modern demands and cultural evolution, prostitute ourselves out for the sake of numbers, tithes or trend.
And come on people, you and I both know this is happening.
I have never told anyone they are going to Hell. Okay, sorry, that isn't true. I did say one time that Margaret Sanger, the Founder of Planned Parenthood, was burning in Hell. And I won't apologize for that. I believe without a doubt that she is.
But other than her, I have never said that to anyone else regardless of sexual orientation, gender feelings, political affiliations, race, creed or economic status. Nope. Never.
So, please, with all do respect, don't put words in my mouth.
I think all people should be invited into the Body of Christ. Jesus surrounded Himself with society's rejects. Yes, our pews should be filled with people from all walks of life representing the very best of humanity and the very worst. Everyone needs Jesus. Everyone needs love. Everyone needs the life-changing truth of the Gospels.
And we should come to the cross. Come exactly as we are. We should be free to be ourselves and honest and open. However, we should come knowing that He is the Potter and we are the clay. We should, once faced with the enormity of Jesus' love and sacrifice, be prepared to be broken and changed. Fundamentally transformed. We will shed the life we lived, the falsehoods we believed, the lies we perpetuated and be reborn. For many of us, the never-ending process will be painful and unpleasant.
Obviously, that's all His job and not mine. Hello...I am an H-O-double T mess most of the time. But my falleness doesn't change His Word and the Truths held within. Just because I am a sinner doesn't mean I can't and shouldn't identify and warn against earthly transgressions.
My deepest desire, my never-changing goal is to facilitate conversations, hard conversations, having to do with tough, uncomfortable subjects. I want to cross lines and break down barriers. I want to understand people and mentalities and beliefs or lack thereof. I want to use this beast and world changing phenomenon known as social media for more than location updates, selfies and relationship statuses.
I want people to know where I stand on all issues and how I arrived there.
So, over the last couple of weeks, I took a big step back.
I needed to reassess myself.
I needed to reread my words--carefully and reflect on them now that some time has passed.
I needed to make sure, I needed to be completely certain, that my tone and my social media image were what I wanted them to be.
And, *drum roll please*....they are.
I am sassy. Yes.
I am honest. Brutally.
I am unapologetically a follower of Christ. Broken and still a major work in progress.
I am a lover of freedom, a proud American and an arrogant Texan. Just keepin' it real.
I am a Pro-life, gun-toting, blonde-headed nightmare.
I am an independent, submissive woman committed to traditional family values.
I am a college-educated, self-employed loather of over-taxation.
I am a wife, a mother, a wine-drinking, shoe-loving jewelry addict who loves red lipstick and fancy headbands.
I am a music-loving, dancing, singing at the top of my lungs, fun-loving girl who loves everyone and hates being misunderstood.
Yep. That's exactly who I am. That's how God created me and these are the gifts/burdens He bestowed upon me. This is my role in the Body. Not your role, but mine. And if you don't see me that way and interpret my thoughts and words the way they are intended; well, that's because you have chosen not to.
And there's absolutely nothing I can do to change that.