We all like to celebrate anniversaries. High school graduations, weddings, birthdays…milestones are very important to us. Usually these are happy memories that we want to commemorate so that we can tell the story of exciting times in our lives. I have a story to tell and an anniversary to celebrate, but it stems from a not-so-glamorous journey.
Here is your warning: I may confess that I’m not a perfect Christian. I might just talk about my disgruntled feelings toward the Lord’s people and His church. And then, it’s possible I will share my desire to mend my broken heart.
Being raised in a Christian home, I was taught from an early age to seek God and to follow His commandments. I had a lot of knowledge for a teenager, I guess…my Bible was filled with notes from all the sermons I had listened to and classes I had attended and Hebrew and Greek translations I learned. I had an outline taped to the inside cover to help guide me through a discussion and teach a stranger everything he needed to know to become a Christian in about 30 minutes. There were color-coded verses that cataloged the steps of salvation. My Bible was marked up and falling apart – what a superstar believer I was, right? Wrong.
I was smacked in the face 10 years ago when I realized I didn’t have all the answers to Bible questions.
We were on a mission trip to Aruba when a teenage girl was baptized and everyone clapped. What? We are the church! We don’t clap! But I just rejoiced over a baptism and no one was offended? World rocked.
I studied with a homosexual friend in high school. I shunned him when he stated that God made him the way he was. I marched my marked-up Bible to school and read every verse I knew about homosexuals going to hell. Shockingly, he didn’t change his mind or his ways. World shaken.
I tried to explain to my friends why I couldn’t attend prom, and how it was “against my religion,” even though they all professed to be Christians, too. I couldn’t find a single verse in my Bible to defend myself. World collapsed.
Maybe these are silly examples, but I began to question everything I had ever known about my faith. Then, it was time for me to head off to a Christian college where it seemed like everyone knew exactly what they believed. Bitterness filled my heart, and I sat through Bible class after worship service after devotional thinking, “Do you people seriously think you’ve got all the answers???” It would not even be a stretch to admit that I felt hate towards others who rejected my questions.
I remember crying during a lesson at a youth camp one night where the speaker discussed doubting God, and in a beautifully packed three-point sermon explained how we should be ashamed if we ever question our faith or religion. I honestly felt my blood boiling as I resisted my urge to stand and cry out my opposing view.
Here’s the tricky part: I quickly swung from one extreme side of my religion (where I knew and understood everything absolute truth about the Bible) to another extreme side (where it was impossible to articulate absolute truth in the Bible). All I wanted to do was to find where Jesus was, and I intensely resented those who had so perfectly defined him. I was willing to visit any church that claimed to love people, and it didn’t seem to matter if I relinquished some of those Biblical truths I had always held so tightly to.
I know I’m not alone in this. I have had conversations weekly for at least 10 years with people my age who are disgruntled and unsettled. Enter buzzword: Millennials. If you haven’t met us, we have also been called Postmodernists, progressives, or just downright liberals. Can I share something else with you? We are broken people, searching for truth.
After visiting at least 100 different churches (I told you I was searching), I have yet to find a single place of worship where Christians are completely unified in theology. Don’t believe me? Go speak to the ministry staff or eldership of your church. Or go ask your grandfather how he feels about our nation’s current leaders. The Lord’s church is almost unanimously divided by followers on either end of the religious spectrum. And what’s worse, they often resent one another as I described earlier.
“Why do those young people wear holes in their jeans to a period of worship…where is the respect in that?”
“Why do those old people dress up for church like everything’s just perfect…will the poor feel comfortable here?”
The danger in both of these statements is that either person is reflecting arrogance. They might as well just come out and say that they have found the straight road to Heaven. Unfortunately for me, I have spent the past 26 years of life living in utter arrogance. When my Bible was color coded, I was arrogant to believe the Christian walk was a cookie-cutter journey. When I resisted any semblance of absolute truth, I was arrogant to believe I was more righteous for simply doing good to others.
God knew what he was doing when He designed us as unique individuals. He sees the value in each of our perspectives, and the potential when we share those perspectives. I can’t image how He feels watching such potential be squashed by our own selfish ambitions. He saw it in the early church through divisions among the Jews and Gentiles. He sees it today through divisions among the young and the old.
Can you imagine watching your perfect design of church community being shamefully ruined by those you created to enjoy its remarkable benefits?
I am recognizing an anniversary in my religious walk. I have spent the past 10 years searching for God and truth. I’ve been a conservative and a liberal, a Bible toter and a Bible quoter, an arrogant know-it-all and an arrogant know-nothing-at-all. I celebrate this because it’s time for me to find balance. I believe it’s time for the church to find balance as well.
I don’t expect everyone to be at this part of the journey with me. I can’t demand that everyone see things as I do. I most certainly won’t claim that I have things figured out. But I can say that every day that we find ourselves disgruntled with our fellow believers, there are lost souls dying. We cannot effectively bring others to Christ when we can’t even worship Him without judging the person sitting next to us on Sunday. There’s no way we can rejoice in one person’s evangelistic successes when we dwell on our theological disagreements.
We must keep our humility grounded in Christ’s example.
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” –Philippians 2:2-8
To the older, wiser generation: Be patient with us. Teach us and guide us. Share your mistakes with us. Let us know that learning is life-long, and that you don’t have everything figured out. Walk with us. Share your hearts with us. We crave realness and openness. We want to follow your leadership.
To my younger, eager generation: Be patient with your elders. Share your concerns. Tell them your fears. Ask them questions. Respect their faith. Recognize their love for God. Stay faithful in fellowship with them. Learn from their mistakes. Follow in their footsteps.
Fellow believers, don’t let Satan have his way with what is God’s. We can’t allow him to turn us against one another. The church will die when we focus on ourselves. We should see ourselves divided from those who don’t recognize our Lord as their Savior. We are not divided from our fellow believers.
“…Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” –Matthew 12:25
This post is my confession. I have done much apologizing to those who I have resented. If you have been on my journey, use today to restore your fellowship with fellow believers. Anyone can disagree with another person, but Christians have the power to be united through these disagreements. Let’s work today to strengthen the power of the Lord’s perfect design: His church.