Let’s at least get to the table to talk

What I long for is the honest conversation in the church. I want to drop my misconceptions and just invite a conversation. It’s incredibly difficult. For one, I can’t get those things completely out of my head. I have to work harder at simple listening.

For another, when people see me, they see my labels. So, because I’m Pentecostal… or “evangelical”… or white… or male… somehow there is not a conversation to be had. Misconceptions run both ways.

I won’t be labeled automatically. Not if I can help it. I know it will happen, but that’s not on me. It’s up to me to make sure I’m not letting labels get quickly in the way so it blocks a conversation with someone else.

But let’s at least get to the table to talk.

Scot McKnight has some powerful questions on the “success” of a church. I like some of these challenging questions!

Asked as a question, Who is invisible in your church?

To the degree folks are invisible, we don’t have the right view of the church or the right view of the Christian life.

Here are some examples:

Ethnically different
Faith strugglers

Then…. BOOM:

What about gays and lesbians? Let’s ignore the debates about what the Bible teaches and ask this question: Are they able to be honest about their sexual orientation? Or do they catch the message the gospel is not for them? Does your church want redemption or exclusion?

For me, I want to at least get to the table to have the conversation. As uncomfortable as it is, I long for those deep moments where something real is possible.

Both/And, Part 2

Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World by Rich Nathan and Insoo Kim has been a refreshing read. It leaves me challenged.

Nathan takes on the really hard things we just don’t like to talk about. He discusses reaching out to and loving the homosexual community. There is something for everyone there to love… and hate. His conclusions are his convictions, but I’m pretty sure the “either/or” world that exists on both sides of this issue won’t like his honest conversation.

He tackles women in ministry. He leaves no hot potato untouched, really.

The approach is trying to live out Christ in this world as we hear the voice of the Spirit and work to remain obedient to the revelation given to us.

The context of pastoring his own church and working this out makes it much more readable for me. He isn’t talking theory. He isn’t sitting in an academic office somewhere thinking this up. He is tackling it in his context. It is refreshing to read in that way.

I think these voices are worth listening to in this day, even though no one is very good at listening right now.

We May Not Agree, But We Need Not Hate

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6:27, NLT)

I truly enjoy blogging and exchanging ideas. There are quite a few things I choose not to engage in on this particular blog, though I might give it a swing on Facebook. One reason I may not engage fully is how we tend to get quite nasty in our disagreements. Sometimes we get into areas that really are difficult and navigating those waters gets downright choppy.

Two huge issues come to mind:

1. Rob Bell and the “new universalism” (which isn’t new, but we can call it that, I suppose).

2. The ordaining of homosexuals that was approved by the Presbyterian Church USA this week. (Or, any other issue dealing with homosexuality.)

There are quite simply matters that will not be resolved in this space we call “time.” Not our lifetimes. Not the next generation. We will just keep struggling along.

Yet, we get so disagreeable in our disagreements!

Quite frankly, we like our own positions and anyone who can’t see it our way is just plain nuts! 😉

In this vein, while I do not wish to wade into debates on particular issues, I offer a couple of thoughts:

1. I may not agree with you on your position. To be honest, I may even think you’re wrong. But know this: That takes nothing away from me respecting you.

For instance, I will disagree politically with President Obama 90 plus percent of the time on policy. That does not lessen my respect for him as president.

2. If I treat those who disagree with me in a way that seems to hold contempt, I am wrong. I may be right in my “position,” but that does not give me freedom to hold the other position with contempt.

For instance, I will disagree politically with Republicans AND Democrats on so many issues. Traditionally, I have voted Republican. I have since re-evaluated that position, but that doesn’t readily mean I would vote for a Democrat. That does not mean I need to say, “Anyone voting Democrat just can’t be a Christian,” or something to that effect. Nor do I accept someone saying, “If you vote Republican, how can you call yourself a Christian?”

In our current climate in American Christianity and American democracy, we have the position of  “We disagree, and we will be disagreeable doing it.”

I just simply don’t want to be that way. If I choose to act that way, or act in a way that would seem hateful to a position different than mine, how am I different? That is the question posed in Luke 6. Why just be nice to those who agree with you? The rest of the world does that! Big deal! Kingdom living calls for something different. It isn’t easy! But it just may make a difference if we, as believers, decide to give it a shot.

Breaking Through Barriers

The gospel text for this Sunday is John 4. Jesus encounters the woman at the well.

One of the key thoughts this trip through this familiar passage is how Jesus breaks through barriers. The barriers I see in one area concerns us as believers. In reaching out to our world there are barriers that need busting. Jesus demonstrates amazing ability to bust through all kinds of barriers to reach someone who truly needs living water.

He breaks through the racial and gender barrier. This is a Samaritan, which Jews considered completely unworthy of a conversation. She is a woman, which makes it worse. How can a Jewish man be in this conversation at all?

Over the years I have established friendships with quite a few Muslims. They live in my city so I reach out. There are many I count as very dear friends. Right after 9/11 there were more than a few people who thought I had a death wish on me because I kept visiting my Muslim friends. I actually worked harder to meet with them after 9/11. We create barriers that keep us from reaching across to touch people with the love of our Lord.

Another area we need to recognize is the barrier of homosexuality. Without trying to create a huge debate, this is an area over the years the Spirit has worked on in me. I can remember several years ago studying Acts and coming to Acts 10 and asking the Lord to help me see what group in our culture is like Cornelius and the Gentiles. The Spirit broke my heart that day. “There are hundreds of Cornelius’ in the homosexual community crying out for me and I need some Peters to go see them.”

I readily confess I don’t have all the answers on that one, but it is a barrier we need to confess and ask the Spirit to help us break down.

We need to overcome our barrier of busyness. The disciples were busy getting food. Jesus stayed put. He saw the Father’s agenda and went with it. We get so caught up in our routines we miss people.

What are other barriers you might see that keep us from seeing our own Samaritan woman at the well?