forgiveness: dear church
For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little.
So I think we know each other well enough to just come out and say it: we live in a strangely terrifying yet beautiful world. I am in constant conflict about my opinion of the world: because there is such beauty and inspiration to be found. In people protesting for women’s rights, in conversations had about racial reconciliation, in teenagers standing up and finally making a difference. I read stories about people fighting for beautiful, good things, and I get texts inviting me to road trip for protests for spring break, and it’s like I’m a kid seeing fireworks for the first time: full of awe and wonder and like I’m witnessing the best this world has to offer.
But then I remember that the reason we’re protesting is because innocent black boys are being shot for a long list of reasons that every time I write out it feels too brash so we’ll have to come back to it. And we’re protesting because children are being shoved in closets and cupboards and killed, shot dead in their classrooms. And we’re protesting because women still get raped, because men still have to pretend they don’t have emotion; we’re protesting because we’re paying attention and we’re angry about it. Then I feel like the other kid, beside the one in awe, crying and screaming because the noise is too loud and she’s overwhelmed by it all.
So, I’ll restate it: we live in a strangely terrifying yet beautiful world. I’m trying to come to terms with it still, we all are.
I read something today about the separation between church and state, which sounds great; everyone says they want that, right?
But, if we’re being literal here, it’s impossible. People vote based off of what they think is politically the best option for the country based off of what their morals are, as human beings (religious or non-religious) our morals are formed by what we believe is right or wrong. As religious people, but speaking from the viewpoint of a Christian, we base what we believe is right or wrong off of our religion. As a Christian I cannot walk into the voting booth and vote for someone who does not align with what I believe is morally right, maybe I’m the odd one out but it doesn’t seem that way.
Mark Labberton in his book “The Dangerous Act of Worship” writes that what the world needs is better worship. What, you ask? I have all the Hillsong albums downloaded on my phone and I do my daily devotions+instagram post. That’s great, hon’, but we've been asked to do more. I don’t know that he intended his statement to be used in this sense, but having read his book I am confident he wouldn’t argue.
Labberton writes, “The crisis the church currently faces is that our individual and corporate worship do not produce the fruit of justice and righteousness that God seeks. This creates a crisis of faithfulness before God and a crisis of purpose before the world. Scripture indicates that our personal and communal worship are meant to shape our vision and fire our engines to be daring disciples, imitating and sharing the love of Jesus Christ in acts of righteousness and justice. What’s more the Bible teaches that the people of the world, whether they believe it or not, suffer and die while waiting for us in the church to live like the people of God, demonstrating our worship with our lives.” (see Romans 8:18-25)
We do not need a separation of church and state, what we need is a better understanding of our religion.
Because here is the thing, worshipping Jesus within your spectrum is great. Really great, I don’t want to downplay that. Reading your Bible every day, memorizing every line to those worship songs and singing them with all the gusto in the world, going to church every Sunday— all of these are good things. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good. It’s just that they aren’t the point. They aren’t enough, and we let them be for a really long time.
We look at people whose instagrams are full of Jesus-y spiritual things and wish we could make our faith look that postworthy. We’ve played up that lifestyle, but I think in that we as Christians have gotten lazy. I know some people would say that I have for sure— because I say cuss words or because I don’t go to church every Sunday, but I think we’ve gotten too caught up with pointing fingers in the form of prayer requests or spiritual concern about the way we appear to the world. I can say that I have studied Jesus, in depth as a religion major, and the man that I met there wasn’t someone who told me I was no longer a child of God because I had a nose ring and tattoos. He wasn’t someone who judged me because I made mistakes, or because I chose to say hell instead of heck. The Jesus I read about said to sell all you have and give to the poor, and yet I have two closets full of clothes but no one is calling me out about that. No, we like that sin: it makes for good instagram posts. We like to look pure, that’s the point. We as Christians got so focused on ‘being in the world but not of it’ and standing out, being known for not cussing or drinking or not wearing clothes that showed too much skin that we forgot to hold the hands of the people next to us. We forgot about our neighbors. We forgot who Jesus was, is.
When we talk about Jesus, we like to think of him in terms of helping the sick in hospitals or nursing homes— those are the sick people we willingly pretend he went to.
Jokes on us though: tax collectors are today’s welfare recipients, the crippled man is todays homeless man, the woman caught in adultery is todays pregnant mom who can’t afford to give birth to a kid and has nowhere to go, Jairus’s daughter is todays children killed in their classrooms, the lepers of his day are todays oppressed (African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, women, gays, lesbians, refugees, illegal immigrants), etc. etc. etc. Christians somehow forgot that Jesus hung out on the fringe, with the people society didn’t like, that was his thing.
So why isn’t it our thing? Because we’re worried we’ll look like we are condoning what we believe to be their sin? Because it isn’t pretty? Because you can’t post that Black Lives Matter protest you went to on Facebook or Instagram because it’ll offend all your white friends and Jesus never ever ever offended anyone? We got lost man. We fell asleep.
Somewhere in the years of growing up in the church, I remember hearing someone talk about Satan using good things to distract us from the work God really has planned for us. I think they meant like working in children’s church instead of going to service: you’re doing a good work but you’re missing the teaching. Something like that.
Well, we were trying to be pure (which is ironic considering we were made pure by the blood of Jesus when he died for our sins so we could maybe focus on loving people instead of being perfect enough to make it into heaven) and we got so caught up in it that we missed the bigger purpose. The touch down, the grand finale— like when you leave a movie before the credits are over and you miss the sneak peak at what the next movie will look like. We read one part and put the book down before we got to the next step.
Luke 7:47 says, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little.” (NASB)
You know what, I don’t doubt that Jesus will scold me for not watching my mouth better but I am more worried about standing in front of Jesus and him saying, “Beloved, you had so much yet gave so little. I forgave so much, yet you showed love to so few. I gifted you the world, and you did not help its hurting at all.”
Church, your sins have been forgiven. They have, they have, they have. Before you were born your greatest sin was atoned for.
Until we as Christians learn that it is not the small acts of devotion that save us and live our lives as those who have been forgiven much we are missing the point of grace in the first place.
Allow yourself to be forgiven, move on to the great love.