I got this email the other day and it really touched me. It was from someone I first met traveling in Pennsylvania some time ago, but we have stayed in contact and become good friends over that time. “As I continue to see the never-ending “church”/”christian” debates, promotions, and controversies scroll down my Facebook news feed, I couldn’t be happier that Father saw fit to connect us over ten years ago! You have truly shown me a better way, a better relationship, a better Father!”
First off, I won’t take credit for all of that, but reading his words made me grateful for every human being God has led across my path in my most transformative days who helped me see a better way into a relationship with Father that increasingly bears the fruit of kindness, generosity, and graciousness to others, even those who don’t share my views of God, his church, or the world. Those people who reflected Jesus’ priorities to me were an incredible encouragement on this journey.
Secondly, reading his email expressed well for me what I feel reading down my Facebook feed most days. There is still way too much angst between those who either want to defend congregational attendance as the only measure of someone’s walk with Jesus or passion for real community, and those who want to reject anyone who does as being embedded in legalism or religion. Congregational meetings are simply collections of Christians who get together regularly for some singing and a Bible lecture. That can be helpful on some people’s journey or it can be destructive depending on the content and the structure behind it.
But the real journey is not about church, no church, going to church, not going to church, accusing others of being too religious or lone wolves. The real journey is about embraching the reality of Father’s love and letting that spill out of us in ways that brings his redemptive influence into the world, rather than tearing others down.
By all means do what God gives you to do, but don’t think you have to either convince others to do it too, or justify yourself by tearing down what may be a significant part of somone else’s journey. Here are some excerpts from Romans 14 in THE MESSAGE that always challenge me:
- Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
- So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.
- Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others.
If we can only see how well-loved we are we would love well in the world, and his kingdom would unfurl before us like a meadow full of wildflowers. And I really do think that’s a better way than getting caught up in the side roads of comparing ourselves to others.