As a follower of Jesus for more than 40 years, I realize that for most of that time I’ve avoided – we’ve avoided – the most important aspects of following Jesus.
I’m sorry that I missed that Jesus’ first and continuing lesson, was the belovedness of each human being. If Jesus came as the manner in which God loves the whole world, how did we continue to see things in terms of who is in or out, just changing the categories?
How is it that we – I – continue to seek out the cool kids, the winners, the upwardly mobile, when Jesus seemed genuinely not to notice such differences?
I’m sorry that we glossed over the parts in the gospel where Jesus engaged the hated – not just the poor or the “unclean,” but even Zacchaeus who was quite wealthy (as a white-collar criminal in his day) – and by his engagement, they were changed. Is that what we were supposed to be doing?
I’m sorry that we became so entranced with building “successful” institutions (and did!). Those institutions, to remain, have to be continually fed with more and more “winning.”
I’m sorry, because Jesus appeared to have rejected that sort of thing. It seems like many people – even his own brothers – wanted him to amend his game so he could play at a higher level, but he just walked on in his one robe. I know it wasn’t because he had some sort of self-esteem problem; on the contrary, it was because he knew all our posturing comes from fear.
I’m sorry, because now I see at least this much: that we were straining at gnats while swallowing camels, so to speak, fighting over disputable issues in our own camps while leaving aside what we could have been doing as Spirit-filled Jesus-followers, if we just would have seen other people through Jesus’ eyes.
I understand more, at this stage of my spiritual development, why this happens.
I’ve talked about it a lot at church but still have so much more to learn myself about how to live this way.
I’m talking about what Paul calls the difference between living “in the flesh” and “in the Spirit.”
Living “in the flesh” is pretty much just living like everyone else. It’s living this life as though this life is all there is, and being fully engaged in the battle for survival, whether survival means getting daily bread, or safeguarding one’s position at work. It’s a life of fear and anger and defensiveness, of tribes and clans and warfare. It’s building earthly “towers” and defending them. It’s protecting what’s most dear to me, the heck with anyone else. We don’t always see it because we are engaged in what’s dear to us – but let us perceive a threat and “living in the flesh” will become clear.
But Jesus called us to his kind of living. It’s not an ideal – it’s a real way of living in his presence.
It’s what he was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount, where one’s heart is fully engaged in loving others, refusing to use others, trusting God to do the defending. It’s that life that where everyone is beloved, and I can take the chance of loving others because I am so safe with God.
This is Spirit-empowered living.
With this power I can, if I am willing, transcend all the petty fighting in my “flesh” and override my defensiveness and fear and become friends and fellow travelers with anyone, as Jesus did.
That’s the way it is supposed to be. But it mostly hasn’t been that way.
I can’t say “I’m sorry” for everything. It’s true that in any church there are individuals at many levels of spiritual development (including “none”!). If a church is a hospital for sinners, then it is foolhardy to expect that one can enter a church and never encounter someone who is rude, petty or hateful. If the door is open to everyone, then certainly it is open to…everyone!
There is no church on earth where there are no sinners.
But I am so very sorry that so much of our history has been wasted, chasing the wrong things.
We were not meant to build cathedrals (much as I love their beauty). We were not meant to become culture warriors. We were not meant to become fortresses.
We were meant to be lovers of others, the breakers of barriers, the pursuers of reconciliation, just because we are so well loved by God in Christ.
For every new barrier we built, I’m sorry.
For every new rift we created, I’m sorry.
For everyone who felt especially UNloved by us, I’m desperately sorry.
Please forgive me. Please forgive us. We have a lot to learn, but I hope that we are learning.
If you have anything to say to us in that regard, please do.