When your life is over, will people say of you that you held to doctrinal purity, or that you loved people, all kinds of people, without judgement or condemnation?
The title of this post is actually the title of song by the group Casting Crowns. I think that it has a lot to say to the church today.
As I was driving through my hometown of Buffalo, NY one afternoon last week, I observed people. I looked at their faces, and their body language. I tried to feel what was in their minds and hearts. I am a counselor by trade, a gift from the Holy Spirit. Although at that particular moment I questioned whether it was a gift, because what I saw and felt in the people I passed was hurt, pain, suffering, loneliness, rejection and a multitude of other thoughts and emotions.
I was overwhelmed.
It reminded me of earlier this year when I visited the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Seeing the fountains in the footprint of the towers, reading the names, I was filled with emotion. I felt the horror, pain and suffering of those who died, I felt the grief of those husbands, wives, partners, lovers, children, mothers, fathers and friends left behind. I cannot visit there again. The pain engulfed me like a tsunami.
So back to my experiences in Buffalo.
Another amazing oppportunity I had was in working with people living with HIV/AIDS, and I have seen up close. fear and despair in the eyes of somone newly diagnosed with HIV. I have also had many conversations with clients looking for love and acceptance. Gay, or straight, women and men, black, white, Asian, Hispanic…many people searching and seeking.
So many stories, stories of multiple empty relationships, physical and emotional abuse, drug and alcohol problems, homelessness, and poverty, There was and is no end to the problems and issues in people’s lives.
The question I have had to ask myself is, “Where is Jesus in this sea of pain?
Is He in the protests and angry vitriol of those at gay pride parades, waving a “god hates fags” sign?
Is He in the pickets at abortions clinics, shoving a picture of a dead fetus in the face of a teenage girl crying as she enters the clinic?
Is He standing across the street of a funeral home chanting “thank god for dead soldiers” while a grieving family says goodbye to their dead 19 year son?
Is He a writer behind vile and repulsive blogs and editorials, condemning marriage equality, and comparing it to the legalization of pedophilia, or bestiality?
Is this Jesus?
I would humbly venture to say no.
My Bible states the real Jesus touched the leper, loved the adulteress, the woman rejected by her people, and the woman who was a prostitute. He healed multitudes without asking anything in return. he spoke up on behalf the those rejected by the religious culture of the day. He accepted them and restored dignity to those who had it bullied and beaten out of them.
His actions and His words brought healing… physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing.
There is so much pain in the world today. God has given the Church a job to do. That job is to love people unconditionally into the Kingdom.
Some may say what about purity and holiness and righteousness. My answer is simple…look to Jesus. He, is all those things for us and more. We have a calling as His body, and that calling to to love so intensely, to forgive so completely, to surround people with mercy and grace so abundantly , that they will see us as a refuge from the world’s pain. And in seeking refuge in our loving actions and words, they will find God behind it all.
So only one question remains…
When will our words and actions line up with His?