Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Being Purple In the Church

I usually don’t care enough to be political.

I usually watch the news and keep to myself.

I usually either get angry or disgusted or just thick skinned.

Something this week happened that made me smile. Something gave me some brand of hope. But then this hope was dashed by something that unfortunately is all too common and expected.

No one will argue (I hope) that Christians are supposed to leave this world better than they came into it. We all have our different ways of going about it but hopefully somehow we reach out to other people’s lives and inspire some sort of hope.

Problem is, we are human.

We like to think that we are a positive influence on our surroundings but time after time our actions are actually detrimental to others. Now you may think I am speaking in obscurities and over-generalized terms, but I challenge you to think of a time where either you have been hurt by a Christian who instead of helping you just gave you the lecture about how you needed to straighten up and fly right. Or worse even, when have you as a Christian failed to reach out and instead hurt another. I speak in this general sense because I don’t want you to think specifically. Although I am bringing up a specific topic, I challenge you to apply this to yourself. I ask you to look past what you see wrong in others and internally search. To ask if there is any wicked way in our heart.

In the past few days a popular pastor has been criticized and put on the defensive by some fellow Christians who do not think he is acting as pastor should. Rick Warren, the author of the ever-popular Purpose-Driven Life, has come under fire by conservative (Christian) special-interest groups because one of the 60 people he invited to speak may not necessarily be cohesive in more conservative beliefs about difficult issues.

Pastor Warren invited the democratic senator Barack Obama to speak at a recent Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at the Saddleback Mega-church in Lake Forest, California. Many groups and conservative leaders have criticized Warren because of Obama’s views on abortion. Obama is a self-proclaimed pro-choicer and many evangelical leaders have a hard time swallowing that and an even tougher time with the fact that Warren would have the audacity to have him speak from a pulpit.

Please bear in mind that I am very opposed to politicizing any pulpit message and passing it off as some sort of pseudo-gospel, and to do so is not scriptural whatsoever and in my mind undermines and soils the gospel of Christ. Here is the difference in this situation: What Warren is trying to do is not become some sort of flaky teacher more concerned with patting you on the back than exhorting you to a change of life. Instead he is being bold and using the influence and power he has been blessed with to reach out to others. He is giving his church (and other Christians) the rare opportunity to go beyond our church-lives and actually do something to help the rest of humanity. All over the world, AIDS is a serious epidemic that countless lives are lost every day to. We have a duty to show Christian love to the people who suffer and the ones who help the suffering. We are called to be a light to the world that points to Christ by our actions, not our politics. If we are ever going to make a difference we need to stop thinking in red and blue and start thinking in terms of humanity.

Rick Warren, by the way, is not being timid about his beliefs in this. He has been very outspoken about his clear-cut opposition to Obama’s stance on these other issues and it is this opposition that makes this situation so meaningful. It shows that we can relate to others in a way that is deeper than asking leading questions in hope that eventually we can tell someone about the gospel. Instead, we are automatically able to show them the gospel and hope that is Christ by simply living our lives. It is this clenching of our faith and values in one hand, and the reaching out desperately with the other that causes change in the lives of others. It is grasping out for the drowning hand of another in any way we can while holding just as tightly to the only thing that keeps us afloat with our other hand. We do not need to sell out our beliefs just to be relevant to the rest of the world and our culture.

Which is more beneficial, inviting a sinner to church, or condemning the one who invites them? The body of Christ is made up of sinners, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards, and fools who have instead of being pulled under by our own selfishness, have been broken and restored by a God who reaches beyond politics, beyond borders, and beyond our own foolishness to bring us back to a peace with Him. I hope and pray that you and I can be the person who reaches out. One who goes beyond our safe buildings and Christian friends, and actually touches the heart of another with God’s hope.


Heatherly said...

just so you know, even though he is not prolife... i LOVE obama!

Purple said...

Love the line: "It is this clenching of our faith and values in one hand, and the reaching out desperately with the other that causes change in the lives of others." Total integrity in both our internal beliefs and external compassion --

Just a side note, being purple's not so bad! ;o)

~ Purple