I am repenting.
As a pastor, a father, as a Christian – I have not identified with the outcast, the hurting, the rejected. I have not empathized with the plight of those in our culture who are hurt by the very systematic makeup of our society. I have not allowed the compassion of God to flow through my bones and break me. I have watched the progression of the social discussion and stayed composed. I have calculated when I would speak up and when I would keep my mouth shut.
I repent, and I am done. I want my voice to be His instrument. My pen to be in his hands. May God speak and move freely in my life. This is my repentance.
I think I need to be honest…
I grew up in the setting and lifestyle that would be the epitome of what people imagine when they think of white privilege with a particular suburban, sheltered Christian flare. My family was deeply involved in church, my dad built a successful business, and I went to a private Christian school. So all in all, I had about 15 Jesus/Bible lessons a week all while growing up traveling the world and literally never experiencing the possibility of lack in any material way.
While I’m so thankful for the home I grew up in, no matter how unpopular this stereotype may be, I’m even more thankful that my parents intentionally put us in some proximity with the hurting through mission trips and church-led outreaches. I was exposed to those viewed as outsiders, and in many ways, privilege made an outsider out of me.
Over recent years, many cultural and societal tensions have risen to the surface. Many fractures in the makeup of our modern world are being exposed in unprecedented ways. You see, when tensions come to the surface, it makes us uncomfortable.
We are all ok to leave well enough alone, but what we are experiencing right now with racial tension, prejudice, gender issues and a host of other topics, is coming to the surface. The questions are being asked. The cat’s out of the bag. We can’t turn our heads away anymore.
I think this is our struggle though; we think we have all the answers.
As I grew up and pursued ministry as a part of my life, many of the things I learned as a kid taught me to go look for those in need and to bring hope, life and Jesus to them.
I think there were genuinely some good intentions, and yet I realize now that God isn’t just looking for me to be the problem solver, the person coming in from privilege to help the unprivileged, having all the answers, the goods and carrying Jesus himself – this is only one side of the coin. In fact, scripture says that if we go to the least of these, we find Jesus himself.
It seems that we don’t just give Jesus, but we find Him in the hurting.
Having all the answers is something Christians are known for – and not in a good way. Over the last few decades, the church has taken on the posture of “moral regulator” in culture, a plumb line for good and bad – we have the truth, and everyone needs to listen. Interestingly enough, while we are very comfortable in the place of having answers and power, we aren’t very comfortable in the lowly place.
The language that the church has used toward society is very reminiscent of its beloved preachers, prophets and sermons of the last couple hundred years. We just want everyone to get it and get in line. This isn’t always done with ill-intent, a fact often taken for granted by progressive thinkers. Many like to vilify and demonize everything the church does because it doesn’t adhere to their own convictions.
I have the privilege to identify with the church, with God’s people, because my story and life have been shaped by the beauty and the brokenness of it. We all like to project the stories on others that make us feel good about our judgments, opinions and agendas. The church can be accused of this, but so can those ready to critique everything the church stands for.
My problem as a pastor is that the church at large is calling for this righteous standard to be upheld in our nation. It’s calling for our society to repent for various grievances and problems that we see. We are fighting for legislation that fits the standard we are setting, that we are calling our country to.
We are doing all of this while simply not looking inward at ourselves to see the hypocrisy, dysfunctionality and even evil that abounds in the lives that we live and messages we preach.
In Isaiah 1, God calls the nation of Israel to repent. God looks at their worship as vanity and their assemblies as useless. He asks them to take up the cause of the widow, the hurting, the oppressed. He calls this nation, hell-bent on its own interests, to find God by looking to and identifying with the outsider.
As the church is yelling at this nation to repent, I believe God’s eyes are fixed on his bride. His correction is not for the godless and the orphan, but rather for those that claim his name. As we are asking those we perceive as the outsiders, the nuisances, the enemies to hold our righteous standard, God is calling His church back to its knees. We need to look upward to Him, inward to ourselves and pray the prayer that David prayed: “Search me Lord.”
Let me put it straight. The LGBTQ is not our enemy. Muslims are not our enemy. Immigrants are not our enemy. Actually, the standard of righteousness outlined in Isaiah 1 calls us to identify with the oppressed, those not valued by society. He doesn’t just want us to go and give them the truth. He wants us to identify with and hear the voices of those hurting and rejected by our religious piety. Actually, Paul addresses this quite clearly in 1 Corinthians 5: What business do we have judging the world? We should judge ourselves.
Judging ourselves…not something we like to do. We’d rather have everyone else change, someone else be the one to blame, but as always, God invites us lovingly to the place of humility.
Will we listen? Will we repent?
Husband to Andrea, Dad to Grace, Eden & Judah
Spiritual Director of ClearPath Church in Dallas, TX
Co-Director of Clearpath.life
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Image via Payge Stevens Photography