I'm so afraid that the church - the broad, nationwide collection of believers who amass to worship and grow - has contributed to a society where wrong is ignored and people are marginalized and hate is fanned into flame. Not in sermons preached from the pulpit, necessarily, and not in words from hate-mongering pastors, but in the quietly obvious lack of love and acceptance and true ministering to souls whose default is sin.
We are all messed up people, sinners in need of redemption, and we all have an equally deep need for the mercy of the Savior who passionately loves us and completely forgives us. But in looking at the church, it's often hard to see that we messed up people are equal and that the church loves us all as equally as the One we worship does.
The church, I'm afraid, doesn't reflect Christ. The church, I'm afraid, reflects the racism and classicism and sexism of its society.
I have spent years worshiping in churches where every member looked just like me. White, middle class, steady job and active 401k. I have worshiped in churches where people whisper if a black man walks in and are offended more by a person's clothing choices than the hypocrisy in their own judgment. I have worshiped in churches who marginalize the downtrodden instead of lifting them like brothers, who develop programs to benefit their country club atmospheres and leave the hungry starving in the streets. If the world has diversity, how can the church not? If Jesus loved everyone, how can we refuse?
Praise God I now worship in a church where I don't only see myself reflected. I worship with brothers and sisters whose lives look nothing like mine, with people who spent years living in prisons, with people who understand that grace really is amazing and really is for everyone.
It has taken me a long time to realize that perhaps we have created an image of God who is nothing like the One who is. We worship a God who thinks like us and looks like us and makes us comfortable in the sameness of our pews, when the real God, the true God of the faith we ought to profess is saddened at the narrow-mindedness of our homogeneous gatherings and outraged at our disregard of the command to love all his people.
The news today saddens me. Another black man gunned down by white cops. More white people suggesting he must have deserved it. Another community asking when it will end.
Church, what will be our answer? Will we love, or will we judge? The two are mutually exclusive. A father is dead, a family is mourning, and I have seen people suggesting he got what he deserved - these words coming out of the mouths of those who will "worship" on Sunday. Don't fall into the trap, church. Call what is wrong, wrong, and shower love on hurting people. Do what Christ would do. Anything else is contrary to what you profess.
I wasn't there when Alton Sterling was shot, and I don't know all that happened. But what I do know is enough to be angry, saddened, and burdened. The church's only move in this situation is to love - to show compassion, to be a voice for the voiceless, and to shine light where darkness reigns. Darkness reigns in the world, but let's refuse to let it reign in us. Let's be the church Jesus would recognize, not a church worshiping a created god of sameness and silent hate.