By Dan Crain. This is a blog in a series from the resource, Loving Freely.
(Photo credit to Jason Crain)
Something’s not right in the body of Christ. Pastor and ministry leaders are burning out left and right and some are taking their own lives. Many churches refuse to take a hard look at the sin of racism and it’s causing them not to face division in the body.
There’s an underbelly in the church, in our country, in our own lives and society.
We’re living divided lives.
I lament because we live divided lives internally and this manifests itself in a world that is divided externally. We live divided lives and do not face the shadows of our own soul and thus are not able to face what divides us in the world socially, racially, culturally and socio-economically. Loving Freely is committed to the work of Christ’s reconciliation internally and externally. We cannot live into Christ’s ministry of reconciliation externally if we are not willing to allow Christ to enter deeply internally into our divided lives.
In Redemptive Theology, Christ is in the process of reconciling all things to the Father. This includes humans to God, to each other, to creation and in this case, in the deep interior parts of our lives.
There’s a reason our churches are divided along cultural, racial and economic lines. There’s a system in our country that created this. It’s a system that created white flight and it needs to be named and repented of.
This divisions exists in all of us. We all live divided lives. Jesus, in his first message with his disciples points out they are murderers and adulterers. The same is true of us if we’ve ever had enmity in our heart towards others or looked lustfully at another person.
A few years ago we heard that one of the pastor’s of the church we were a part of had an affair. This is hard to hear as he was a man deeply respected by his community and was known for his honest and compelling messages. All seemed to be okay from the outside but in reality he was living a divided life. He was one person with his family and preaching on Sunday but a different person when he was with the woman.
We all live lives that are fine. Fine being, “frustrated, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” We want to live with this allusion that everything’s fine. Ask people of color and you will quickly find out that everything’s not fine. Read Dr. Eric Mason’s book, Woke Church and we discover that there’s a huge problem racially.
Because of the doctrine of original sin, I was born into a system of racism and because of that my divided life loves to classify, control, and at times racially profile others that are different than me. This is why I don’t believe the words, “I am not a racist.” We are all racists to some extent because of what the false self does as a result of original sin.
The reality is this, the reason the world is divided is because the division lies within ourselves. A quote I heard recently sums it up well, “Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.”
Our churches are becoming inept at inviting people into their brokenness and the brokenness in our culture. We live in a performance driven society and this has affected our churches in many ways. This is why Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality work is built on the analogy of the iceberg analogy. We typically only show 10% of what is really going on in our lives. We always put our best faces on for people. The gospel invites us to invade every part of our brokenness, not just the top 10%. We must learn to be honest with God, others and our selves about what is going on.
What is this division that exists in our lives?
We have a tendency to live a life different than our own. We present a mask to others of a person that we are not.
We try to impress others and are driven with a need to constantly prove ourselves.
We are not faithful to the true self that Christ has placed in us.
We are not honest about the pains of the past and how they play out in the present, both in the deep interior parts of our lives and the systemic racism in our country. We don’t want to face and be honest about a system of racism that was created hundreds of years ago in our country. Darkness does not like to be called out. It’s easier just think it doesn’t exist than face the ugliness of racism and poverty.
We live from other people’s expectations.
We have become so consumed with the American dream of comfort and control that it leads us to being overworked, stressed out, worried about everything and not resting in Christ.
We have bought into the lie that things, people and jobs will give us the peace our wicked hearts so long for.
We become convinced that “they” are the problem.
Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited says, “His message focused on the urgency of a radical change in the inner attitude of the people. He recognized fully that out of the heart are the issues of life and that no external force, however great and overwhelming, can at long last destroy a people if it does not first win the victory of the spirit against them. “To revile because one has been reviled—this is the real evil because it is the evil of the soul itself.” Jesus say this with almighty clarity. Again and again he came back to the inner life of the individual. With increasing insight and startling accuracy he placed his finger on the “inward center” as the crucial arena where the issues would determine the destiny of his people.”
Before we live into the ministry of Christ’s reconciliation externally, we must allow Christ to first reconcile us internally in this inward center. We must realize that despite how painful it is to face our divided lives that what Paul says in Romans 1 is true; “The kindness of God leads us to repentance.”
This is why I love the Dignity Serves training. It exposes the church to what a dignified interdependent relationships is and how we all have needs and struggles. It exposes people to the in and out of serving others. Seeing the image of God in others first starts with seeing the image of God in myself. Seeing and recognizing the assets in others starts with seeing and recognizing the assets in myself. Delighting in others means learning to delight in God’s joy in me.
How is Christ changing us through calling out the false self in order to discover the true self as we seek to join lives with those on the margins? That’s the question I am trying to answer with Loving Freely. This is also the question that REMERGE is trying to answer based on indicator five, how are we being mutually transformed? How is Christ working through our friends in marginalized places to call out our divided lives?
Ghandi is famous for saying, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” This is extremely relevant for the Christian committed to the work of reconciliation. Recently my wife said to me, “Go change the world for Jesus.” As I reflected on those words, I felt the Spirit whisper to me, “You must allow the change to happen in you internally before anything externally happens.” I must allow Christ to reconcile my divided life before I attempt to live into Christ’s ministry of reconciliation externally.
This is a journey of trial and error as we discover how deeply entrenched our false self is in our divided lives. But it’s a journey that Christ invites us to as He continues to build the New Humanity here and now.
Below are some practical steps to begin to live into Christ reconciling your divided life;
Take Dignity Serves to get an understanding of what a dignified interdependent relationship is with our friends and neighbors on the margins.
Read Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman and Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer.
Sit with a friend or neighbor living on the margins and ask them to pray for you and as you built a trusting relationship, allow them to speak into your life.
Sit on the couch with a trusted friend or counselor that loves Jesus and be honest about the division in your own life.
But most importantly, realize that Christ has to come to reconcile all things and this means the deep, dark, secret places in the interior of our lives. Christ has gone to the depths of hell and the deepest evil inside of us doesn’t surprise him. He wants to take that and restore it for His glory.