by Alexei Laushkin
The 2016 election was deeply troubling for me as a Christian, and post 2016 looks to be more of the same. The same kind of tension between our cities and our rural areas, between our neighbors around ethnic and cultural lines, and in our politics, where our ability to talk to each other is quickly diminishing and certainly is at a low ebb.
But my disappointment isn’t with the sins of society, it’s with the church. Not a caustic disappointment, but a mournful one. A prayerful and mournful one on what has become of the bride of Christ in the United States. Whether liberal or progressive, Catholic or evangelical, the church in America isn’t communicating the deep truths of God’s nature to the culture around it.
Consider the Life of Jesus
When you reflect on the ministry and life of Jesus, you are immediately struck by how it spoke to all people. How his actions broke convention and spoke to the deeper truths of our broken relationship with God and one another. In a time of great conflict for the people of God, the son of God was about reconciling the world to himself in both word and deed. Jesus spent his time healing the sick and speaking truth to the lost, he spent time communicating God’s nature even in the midst of great turmoil.
He drew people to the drama of our lives apart from God and spoke of tenderness and mercy and God’s saving and loving nature in public and deeply personal ways.
The story of the gospels bring us in awe of Jesus because they demystify the clutter of the culture and surrounding chaos and bring us back to deeper truths about ourselves. How in spite of severe conflict we are to love our enemies in tangible and personal ways, in ways that challenge our unwillingness to put down the tools of conflict in our own lives. Not because of our goodness, but out of God’s abundant desire to reconcile people to himself.
That invitation is for us, an invitation to be agents of reconciliation. God asks us to join him at every stage of life and human history to the great endeavor of drawing all people back to himself.
The conflicts during the life of Jesus were serious and severe, and yet the ministry of God’s son drew a very different crowd. A crowd drawn from the margins in some way, shape or form, and part of the process of turning from sin into life. This openheartedness to the message and determination of our Savior helped draw an eclectic group to the faith.
This dynamic of demonstrating and drawing people in, seems largely absent from the American church in 2016 whatever its form and stripe. And sadly so.
As God’s people we are to share in that same burning desire, to be drawn out of ourselves and into the goodness of seeing God reconcile people to himself through us. We are to be filled with desire and expectation to bring those outside the walls into the life and goodness of God. We are to die to ourselves and our expectations that others might live. 2016 saw very little of this publicly in the American Church.
2016 Showed Us How Out of Step we Are with God’s Timing
2016 showed us how very much we are all captivated by the rush of the story and the rush of the moment. When we were presented with moments of clarity like our racial tensions or our super heated rhetoric or discussions about immigration, the Christian church was not there to help show by our actions what a more fully orbed and significant sense of time might look like.
In 2016 the church stood back, sometimes cheered its favorite partisan or personal hero, or stood by and stood back to back ‘safer’ and ‘saner’ choices. But very few if any Christian leaders were bold in word and deed about what safeguarding our democracy and cultural decency might look like.
Further still many Christian leaders were unable to be in close touch with the discontent of many Americans or if they were the reflected it in un-sanctified forms. The church failed to help us think in 2016 and is doing very little to help chart healthier courses for our common life.
When people pass by the American church today we may have too fully hidden Jesus for him to be as recognized as he would have been in those earliest of days.
We must recover better forms of love and truth. Forms of holiness and prayer. Forms of kindness and compassion. Forms that demonstrate the love of God beyond the circumstances of a moment in the culture. We must remind everyone that we are to love our enemies, and with affection. We are to bind the brokenhearted, and create a clear path to the Lord for all, especially those outside the margins for whatever reason.
Than perhaps we will begin to feel that refreshing and grounding feeling of Immanuel, God with us and perhaps those who need to hear the good news of God being revealed to them in his Son Jesus Christ might actually begin to hear it too.