Dear Readers, I would like to share this letter that was offered on our Church’s Community page online. I understand that there are not enough words to express the sentiments of our hearts at this time. I don’t even know where to start, myself. I am wordless and grieved. I pray for repentance, healing, deep change and revival.
We need to live as Christians in an aching world. We are the Church walking forward. What does that look like, what does that feel like? These are the thoughts of one Christian, one morning during these troubling times. -L. Willows
Being a Church that Loves
Brothers and sisters, on this beautiful morning I’d like to share concern and hope with you. As unsettling events unfold and as I continue to interact with people who do not know Jesus, I am struck by the need for us to find ways to export the rich spiritual messages that I hear us preaching to ourselves. We each have been given a unique sphere of influence. In recent days, here is what mine has echoed back to me: confusion, anger, hopelessness, weariness. This from people we might expect to be rocks in a storm.
I am continuing to learn the impact that Christ-followers can have in people’s lives by letting our lives authentically touch theirs. Authenticity doesn’t mean perfection. Just over the last 24 hours I’ve been made aware of how powerful it can be for us when people see me stumble, and then ask for forgiveness. Tom has asked us recently about our “spiritual ceiling” – do I allow the Holy Spirit to guide my interactions with people in ways that raise my ceiling?
Paul called us letters. God’s love letters to the world. If I am a letter, I need to be readable. No letter with many sentences blocked out can be effective. I’d be suspicious of a letter like that, wouldn’t you? I hope my unbelieving friends, many of whom are full of questions and confusion in times like this, don’t look at my life and wonder what’s hidden underneath the block-outs. (Name of church member), thanks for your recent confession on this page. That’s what I call removing block-outs!
So here’s my challenge, perhaps you will join me in this: Am I making an effort to integrate my life into the lives of at least some people in my sphere of influence? Am I letting them see my life and know me, warts and all? Have I integrated my life into the lives of people in my sphere of influence so that I have touched them? So that I am a readable and impactful love letter from God?
You may find this controversial but it’s something to consider: We’ve been encouraged to isolate from people for much of 2020 for health reasons. I understand it. I don’t want to get sick or to spread an awful sickness. So I (however imperfectly) comply. Yet I am also aware that Jesus chose, quite intentionally and quite scandalously, to physically touch unclean people when he healed them. Physical touch is a powerful signal of community, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation. However wise or foolish you believe the public policy response to the virus, it is a fact that many of us have been made fearful to use the powerful tool of touch. Without minimizing the sinful brutality or pattern of injustice that resulted in George Floyd’s murder, I wonder if the race and class divisions and fissures that have tragically beset our nation for its entire history, have been recently exacerbated by the precautions that have been urged on us. I was moved by the story of law enforcement officers in one Texas city who recently knelt with protesters and hugged them. And of the impact that had on people to bring about at least the start of a healing process. God created people to be made up of body, soul, and spirit – and he cares for every aspect of who he created us to be (1 Thess 5:23). I am not surprised that anger dissolves, tension dissipates, and dialog happens, when there is hugging.
So now, with our nation and world negotiating perhaps its most difficult passage since I was an adolescent in the late 1960s, I pray that the world will see us being the church. I hope that as the civil authorities tell us it is increasingly acceptable to physically re-integrate ourselves into our communities, that we who know Jesus will seize upon the opportunities we have to reconnect with those who don’t know him. And just maybe to give someone who really needs it, a hug.
© 2020 Dave Todaro