Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hold up. We need to go back to basics.

If there is one thing I feel about the Chick Fil-A controversy, it is grief. I'm grieved at those who have been hurt, I'm grieved at the ways in which we are dealing with unpopular opinions, I'm grieved at those who can't seem to discuss the issue without demonizing everybody and their chicken sandwich.

Most of all, I am grieved at what seems like a total lack of understanding of what the church is and who Jesus calls us to be.

The church is not the group of people that support one restaurant or another. The church is not a special interest group, a group of people who vote one particular way. The church is not a place where people who think and look alike gather.

The church is the body of Christ, the place where God is worshipped, the group of people who gather and work and argue and push and pull and support one another when it seems like everything is falling apart. The church is the place where ideas are tested, where God's will is revealed in community, where justice for all people is prayed for and worked for, where children are taught the wonder of creation that God called good, where even the oldest generations are inspired to dream dreams about what better things are to come.

The church is the very body of Christ, and you cheapen it when you pretend that a bus full of youth traveling to a fast food resaurant counts as a mission trip (I am not making this up). You cheapen the church when you allow this kind of thing to become synonymous with what it means to follow God, but of course this is what happens when you are only interested with filling your worship space, with pushing your agenda, with increasing your power.

Yes, we need people. Yes, the church needs to reach out to a hurting world, and there are a multitude of ways in which we can share the love of God with others. But there is more to "being church" than butts in seats. There is more to being the body of Christ than supporting one cause or another. The church is a far more difficult, mystical being. Let's reach out in love, but let's also have integrity about what we believe. Let's make sure the faith we share has depth to it, has flesh on its bones. Let's make sure that the faith we share isn't just some retooled version of our own biases and values. Let's acknowledge the difficult, maddening, frustrating, fulfilling, world-changing love of Jesus.

So today, I'm celebrating Jesus Apprecation Day. I'm going to be about the work of feeding the hungry, giving (clean) water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, being present with the prisoner, seeing that the sick are treated with adequate care--and with dignity, sheltering the homeless, reminding the world (and the church!) that each person has within him or her the image of God, and doing everything I can to ensure that everybody knows that Jesus loves them, deeply, and that they ought to love that way, too. And if Jesus wants me to keep going, I may not even stop once tomorrow rolls around.

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