what are you?

i was talking with a person not to long ago that seemed rather "upset" - actually, they were very upset - with my refusing to take on words like "christian" or "evangelical" or "saved" or "whatever" in connection with my faith walk. while they seemed to be upset with a great many things about me, that was one of the biggest - the "other biggest" later in the week - so they asked me, "well, what are you?" as if i needed to "be something" they could define to be me; to be someone. i was rather insulted, and asked for them to "go deeper" with the request - well, this upset them even more and they pulled the "it depends on your definition of it" line from the clinton slap-down; as if that was going to make me back down in fear. so i said, "ok, you know more about these things then i seem to know, so then what am i?"

they did not seem to have an answer; what they wanted was to "direct" the conversation and have me "admit" i was a lost puppy in need of their guidance "back to the lord" this way they could make me think that i saw my path was wrong - so they asked me again, "what are you? if you are not christian, what are you?" so i said, "humm, let me see, how about 'a follower of jesus.'" they said, "so that makes you a christian." not sure it does, in fact i am pretty sure it does not. let me explain -

being a follower of jesus means i place the words of jesus above all others - now, we can debate over what jesus did and did not say - but all in all, i take the worlds of jesus over paul and others; most "christian" while claiming they do, truly don't. in fact, i take the words of james and jude [brothers of jesus] over the words of paul - after all, they lived with jesus and paul never met the guy. so, who knows jesus better then jesus and his brothers and sisters?

i also think being a follower of jesus means i am willing to follow in jesus' foot steps, and not in the foot steps of preachers and pastors who think their shit doesn't stink. i care less what robertson, hybell, or any other preacher has to say - i look to jesus as an example of how i am to live and how i am to interact with others. i look at most preachers and pastors and i see how i do not desire to act, or how i do not desire to be - if looking at them means i believe i should be doing what they are not doing, then following them seems all out stupid.

another thing i think shows a difference is that being a follower of jesus means i do not care about the church, because it is not a place where support, comfort or grace can be found - if the church is just like every other place, filled with "people who are lost" then what value is the church? if they are just as lost as i am, why would i follow them? why would i want to be a member of such a club? if they treat me just like everyone else, why join their club? heck, if i join the loin' i at least get a lunch out of the deal.

over the past years, i, and my family, have been abused by the church and used by the church and hurt by the church too many times to count. the "church" always uses the same excuse to justify what they do and how they act, that say, "we are imperfect humans and sometimes that means we hurt each other" - may i suggest they read scripture and find out we are suppose to be changed! we are not suppose to hurt each other, and we are never to hurt another to the point of them walking away from the church - and in reality, when i interview those who have left the church most of the time it is because they were treated poorly.

what am i? simple, i am me; a follower of jesus - nothing more and nothing less. i care for others, love others and strive to do what is right each and every day by others. i am willing to do what it takes to help others and to love those who walk with me as jesus loved me, and those who are walking in different paths, i love as i love myself. i have no idea where this faith walk will lead, but i can assure you i am not evangelical - because i just don't like the uniform and the commitment is lose; i am not a "christian" because that carries with it some big bags that mean nothing and simply cause a great deal of pain to others. i like where God has brought me, and i am comfortable with my faith walk - i can only hope others are also.


community and family

i had a great conversation with a person who works in a church office, and she got me thinking and processing about some very interesting things. i am usually not big on names and places because i like the idea and the story to stand on their own, but becky over at sungrove community church gave me a great deal to think about, and also hope that the church may be getting it right after all. now, as many know i am very vocal when i see the church doing an injustice, and i pull no punches when i believe the church processor is about to fry a wire - so i have to be willing to give credit where credit is due and i think our conversation was a very interesting one for me - but let me put it in prospective.

today, much earlier in the day, i received a call from charles conniry, a great guy and the head of the dmin program at george fox university; we spent time talking about the church and her being a rather "dusty, crumbly" institution. in our conversation, i was not very "supportive of the church." you see, over the past few years we [my family] have been hurt by the church at some very core levels. this feeling of hurt, and that is a mild way of saying it, runs deep and it can make a person very bitter and angry - and that bitterness and anger can be focused in places we never want them to be placed. i have not blogged on this because i know in my heart that some of that bitterness is there and God needs to work it out. so, anyway, i shared that with charles [and they still want me in the dmin program - go figure] and he shared a story with me, cool - but then i speak with becky and i have to share that her voice gave me a deep feeling of hope for the church and the possibility that the church just might become what Christ wants of it..

one of the things we talked about was this idea that everyone is talking about "community" and she was wondering what i thought a "community" was - and i have to say, it hit me hard but allowed me to start a process that is powerful in my life. you see, like most people i was ready to give the "company line" that community was a gathering of believers and yada, yada, yada.. you get the drift; but i soon found myself thinking in a very different way. we talked, and we started to talk about the idea that as a church we are not a "community" - because Christ never calls us to be a community - we are a family; brothers and sisters with Christ. we are not a "community of faith" rather we are a "family of faith" - family; living, breathing, loving, supporting, helping, caring, giving, moving, dynamic family - we are to be there for each other as Christ was there for us - and let me see if i can explain this at this point, because at some level this is still in process.

I believe, Jesus said two very important things to his followers, and they were aimed at two very different groups of people - first was when he was confronted by religious leaders trying to trap him, he shared with us a center of how we are to act in community, "love others as well as you love yourself." this is a way of life for many followers and this has become the center of many a theology and many a ministry, and that is great. we must love others as we love ourselves, because Jesus shared it as one of the greatest rules given by God to live our lives. now, i have written before, and i believe it to be true, that one of the reasons we do not do this very well is because we do not love ourselves; so in reality we treat others as we treat ourselves - we do not love us, so we do not love others. but this command is how we are to treat those "outside" the church [the community], and here is where it can get sticky.

Jesus also shares with us another level of love, one that is much deeper then simply "loving yourself." as Jesus was getting ready to head to the cross he was speaking with his followers and shared this level of love, he said, "love one another as i have loved you." ok, so this idea of loving one another is based on our willingness to die for each other - we are willing to give up everything we have for each other and we should be willing to go out of our way for each other - as a "family" we should be ready and willing to give it all away for each other. so, in Jesus' mind there are two levels of love we are to have - one for community [the larger kingdom of God] and the other is for family [those we serve in a local church] - you see, this is a much bigger form of love, because it is a love that identifies us as followers of Christ. loving others is great, but showing a Christ love for each other is central to being seen as a follower of Christ. people are looking at us and seeing if we truly love each other in this way, and they are seeing we do not - so they question if we truly desire to follow the teachings of Christ. now that is where some sticky points come into play.

are we willing, as a family of Christ, to give it all away for just one person in our community? if we are called at three AM by a member of the church crying because her husband beat her, are we willing to get in our car and drive her to safety? what of the parent who is having trouble with a teen? would you be willing to take a child of a single mom on your family vacation? what doe you do when you hear a member of the church lost their job and may lose the house because of it? have you ever purchased groceries for a person in the church who is in need, without them knowing it was you? how do we care for that teen who comes and says "i am with child?" how do we help the elderly in our church? do you visit those who are shut-ins in the church, or do you simply demand the pastor do that? [after all, he gets the big bucks]. where do we draw the line, if we draw a line, between helping the community and helping the family? how can we hold our heads up as followers of Christ, when we refuse to hold the hands of those in our faith family?