I’ve had a struggle lately at work. Been wrapped up in it, to the detriment of my work, if I’m being real. I’ve delved into all the nuance of why I’m concerned about the future of our church, and all the reasons that our present sins might veer us enough off course to not exist in a few years. I wrestle with the knowledge that I see certain things like rampant pride, idolatry, and a failure to carry out the mission of the church- and that brings me not only sadness, but anger, fear, and a sense of unknown about the church in America, the church I work at, and my desire to associate with Christians.
I know I love Jesus, it’s in the core of my being, it’s more who I am than anything else- a man throwing all my hope in this basket, all my trust in His promises. I’ve got Jesus, or I’ve got nothing at all.
I know I have a heart to see God reach people in this world- to see hearts and minds changed- to see people come to repentance and know the power and love of Jesus. It’s what I’ve spent the last 15 years as my number one life goal- “to talk about things that matter with people that matter- and spoilers- all people matter.”
But increasingly, I find myself saddened by the endorsement of evil, the swelling of pride, the standing when we should sit, and sitting when we should stand, present within the American church. My church certainly included and leading the way in that.
We ask ourselves wether or not gay or trans kids should be in youth group, while we soften any blows Jesus and God’s word might say about the rich abusing the poor, or how the love of money is the root of all evil, or that it’s harder for a rich man to get to heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle. If we even dare to bring up how God speaks about wealth, we soften that blow and tone it down, because Jesus couldn’t have meant exactly what he said there. But if we bring up women being pastors, what seems implied might as well be explicit. Jesus treated the leper and the adulterer better than anyone else around Him- not against the wishes of the world, but against the wishes of the religious elite! And now, in our own church, we’ve done the same. We demonize and trivialize those we disagree with. They aren’t the children of God, possibly right or at worst mistaken, but instead those that disagree with any viewpoint of the “christian right” are evil, out to do the work of the devil, and not to be even spoken to.
We use gay or trans as jokes in sermons unrelated to the topic at all. But God forbid we make a poke at the right, the rich, the powerful- you know, the people that Jesus called out as groups. (And even then, STILL LOVED FULLY!)
It’s come to a head recently as I’ve been told explicitly that we’re going through a worldview alignment project- and that we’re using it to “see if you’re a good fit here.” So of course I don’t feel any long or short term security in my role.
But I had a few really good conversations with people that a really, fully respect- not who all agree with my viewpoints, but more importantly and more encouragingly, agree about how high those viewpoints should rank.
In talking with them I found that in certain things, I’m at least not alone. That my thoughts for solutions are not only my own. And I was given hope that even if not here, at least, and as always, there shall be a remnant who do not stand for idolatry, or the phariseeism of adding words to God’s word, as though it was incomplete or lacking on certain topics. Sola Scriptura.
Then lastly, I had a recap talk with a fellow staffer that I respect incredibly highly- and he’d included the advice- that anyone working to keep their job in a church, shouldn’t be working for a church at all. That we should do what we know is right, stand up for what is good- and if that costs us everything, then would we rather have done anything less? That we don’t know how long we get here, and for as long as we’re here, let’s not be cowards.
Let us not be cowards.
Let us not be cowards.
Simple, wise, and exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.
I’ve had to use it multiple times a day for the last couple weeks- should I do this thing, that I believe to be right and for the betterment of God’s kingdom, or should I do this other thing, because it’d help me feel more safe?
I’ve stopped looking so much at the opinion of my boss or those who decide if I’ll still have a job in a month, but rather continually, asking if what I’m doing would bring God joy, bring Him praise, bring Him people’s devotion that He so rightly deserves.
It hasn’t made me feel one iota safer. I still see each of the issues as just as intractable as they were a month ago- ruined without Jesus working a miracle. BUT, and this is the kicker- I also don’t see the problems. Not because they aren’t there to look at, but because good advice calls our focus upwards. My vision is on my King, and what I can do right now to bring myself and others more continually into His presence. I’ve solved the problem not by ignoring it, but by thinking of what matters more. One day my boss will think lower of me, and another day it might be higher, but if I’m working with that as a goal, I’ll lose either way. Instead, I aught to work to make God proud, and if that makes my boss think less of me, I’ll be ok with that as a by-product. And even then, I’ll be holding hope and thinking highest of my boss by thinking that they’d be glad if that were my goal.
Just before all this came to head, I’d been struggling with my own personal definition of gossip. My previous definition left me with times where I felt like I’d lived within it, but still felt guilty- yes- actual feelings of guilt- which was an insane statement to me in the first place. Finally- I reached this new definition:
Anything I say about or to a person that is not useful for building up, supporting, or pursuing positive changeme
So now, just in time, God’s using it to keep me on track- another conversation about my boss? Is it seeking positive change, building up what I know to be good in Scott? Hoping not just for what I think and believe to be best for the church, but the heart check, am I seeking the betterment of Scott?
I have to- because I keep hearing the verse lately: By this they will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.
So am I just becoming the other side of the coin, just as intolerant as the intolerant? Just as angry about what I see as evil, wanting to cut off those I disagree with? Or can I do better- loving those I disagree with, seeking in genuine humility to lead them to a more healthy place? Seeking to understand and not just overcome?
Certainly, I’m not there yet. But I’m asking God to speak into this part of me. Make me better. And in doing so, let me lead others to a more healthy place.
Because in the bigger view- the same advice I got applies to all of life, not just my job.
Working to just to stay here isn’t worthy of staying here. But instead, no matter how long we get, we need to not be cowards. Do what’s right, and if that costs us everything, then let it cost us everything. Ours is not to pick the price, ours is to do the right.
So God, please, let me not be a coward. let me stand for what is right, with the humility a grace of knowing I could be wrong. Guard and guide my heart, and lead me to lead others to pursue this Jesus first life. Amen.