Choosing to Hope for the Church
I am someone who is ever trying to love the church.
I mean, if I’m honest, I can lean toward throwing the church under the bus, as the source of too much pain for too long to too many people. As a poor reflection of its leader. And as the ultimate tragic symbol of unfulfilled promise.
Because of this, a verse like Matthew 16:18 really presses me. To Peter, Jesus says,
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
A church so strong that hell itself can’t touch it. One hand-built by Jesus and therefore about God’s purposes on the earth. Victorious. Untouchable.
Now that’s a vision for the church that I can get behind!
Still, as I think about the church, I muddle back and forth, between hope and cynicism, between possibility and despair.
This has been a difficult week with regard to the church and issues of race. On Monday, megachurch pastor Rick Warren posted an image that was racially insensitive at best and blatantly offensive at worst. After the outcry, and after tragically defending his post for hours, he deleted the thread. If you’d like to engage the issues, I recommend this post by Kathy Khang. Kathy is someone whose perspective I really respect.
Anyhow, as the social media world blew up in response to Warren’s gaffe, I wondered this:
Instead of causing pain in the area of race, shouldn’t the church of Christ be leading the way in facilitating healing? After all, aren’t we the church of Galatians 3:26-29?
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
In this case, as with race, so too with gender.
Too many people associate the church with gender pain. With prohibition. With restriction. With abuse. With hypocrisy.
This week I started dabbling with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s provocative memoir Pastrix. About her experience in the church, she writes,
“Precociousness gave way to sarcasm as my ability to analyze the doctrine and social dynamics at church developed. The moment I was able to recognize the difference between what people said (all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is forbidden) and what they did (clandestine affairs with each other) and the difference between what they taught (women were inferior and subordinate to men) and the reality I experienced in the world (then why am I smarter than my Sunday school teacher?), I know that I had to get out. I was a strong, smart and smart-mouthed girl, and the church I was raised in had no place for that kind of thing even though they loved me.”
Shouldn’t it be that for women, the church of Christ is leading the way in promoting healing, peace, reconciliation and empowerment?
According to Laura Turner, it sure should. In her Christianity Today article “The Christian F-Word,” Turner challenges the church to agree with what she calls the core teaching of feminism, namely the equal standing of men and women. In the end, she conculdes:
“Christianity is most alive in us when we are alive in Jesus. And Jesus is most alive when the shackles of oppression are loosed, when there is no male nor female, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
May this vision for our church come to pass.
So with a deep breath, today I choose hope. More to the point, today I choose to believe that Jesus is enough to steer God’s church in a way that brings grace not pain, to people suffering from racial brokenness or gender brokenness or both.
Please join me in praying for Jesus’ church today.
And this person says, “Amen.”
“Christianity is most alive in us when we are alive in Jesus. And Jesus is most alive when the shackles of oppression are loosed, when there is no male nor female, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Well said Laura Turner. Best thing I’ve read in weeks (and I read Divergent recently) -thanks for the post Rob. Really, thank you.