I understand why Marti is asking that I stop avoiding conflict. How can I sing a new song of deliverance to those who have no hope if, at the same time, I insist on remaining comfortable among those who do?
She reminded me of my early Christian days where I was honored to be part of a movement built around songs of salvation. We were personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. We took on the voice of the prophets, penetrating into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God had a sure and true word for us. We articulated the vision of a radical kind of Christian discipleship. Our voices shined the light of God on the darkness of racism and injustice, and we awoke others to the realities of poverty and corruption.
Many miracles occurred during that season. Yet sadly, few churches were ready for this new influx of radicals, so the movement thrived without many churches participating or offering invitations of welcome. There was more freedom and a far more receptive audience outside.
Why were so many churches not ready? In my opinion, they were much too comfortable with the status quo. One of my earliest songs, “The Cold Cathedral” cried for spiritual reality in the midst of religious deadness, sameness, and a comfort-seeking isolation from the real needs of people – inside and outside the church.
While no longer cold, I fear many of our churches today are in similar places of complacency for other reasons. Instead of cold cathedrals, we might refer to many churches today as “cool” cathedrals – “cool,” as in stylish/fashionable/in vogue. They are so ‘cool’ to the needs of their people that relevancy could in some instances be considered the new god. Today, we seem to again reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where how we feel is the great crisis of our time. We produce a massive consumer niche of ready to buy, wear, and applaud whatever fits in our pre-described mold of entertainment-oriented discipleship. We dress the way we want to dress, sing songs we want to sing, and hear messages we want to hear. Everything is catered to us. It’s also about a short list of predetermined social issues and not the widespread prophetic agenda of justice and compassion. It’s the church where we want more of Jesus and less for the unjust, hungry, oppressed and displaced. After all, why care as Jesus did for the sick or feed the hungry or release the captives, or treat individuals as an ongoing creation of God when He is coming back tomorrow?
It is time to stop avoiding conflict – stop dodging Jesus – for our more comfortable, more cool Christianity. God wants to drive us right into conflict so He can demonstrate His love and mercy through us where it is most clearly needed.
It is time we sang a new song – a song of deliverance and hope without judgment, as we apply the Gospel in a way that embodies Christ’s heart for the hurting, the weak, and the outcast. It is a new song of reconciliation that causes those with no hope to hear, to run to Him and not away from Him, because acts of love are occurring and not just words.
We have a new song made even surer than the songs of those who mounted the countercultural Jesus movement of the early 70‘s. It is time for isolation and protection to cease. It is time to be the hands, feet and heart of the gospel. Time to venture out of our comfortable places and meet Jesus where He is.
And where is He? He is with the vulnerable and the poor. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives. He is in the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. God is with us if we are with them.
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