Over the past few months I've met (mostly online) more and more people who are increasingly frustrated with the religion of christianity, and it's religious pressures, and have looked to find God 'outside' of the encumbering that we have felt within traditional 'church-life'.
Something that I've picked up on is that we 'outsiders' tend to have a lingo of our own. We often speak of 'out-of-the-box christians' or the 'church' as a 'club'. I think much of this is because many of us feel free now, after feeling so 'boxed-in' for so many years. We've come to find something that looks real and true, and the knee-jerk is that we feel what we were in isn't real or true.
Much of the time, we have been hurt in some way or another, often because we didn't feel like we fit in, or because as we began to feel disatisfied and ask questions, others didn't treat us with grace, but with hostility and judgement. Most of the time we leave on the one hand feeling wrongly done by, and on the other hand reveling in the freedom we've found 'on the other side'.
I think there is something in all this that we're missing. The people still 'inside'. For those of us who have been in 'church' for a long time, we often have close friends and family firmly entrenched in that way of living out christianity. It's what they've been taught and it's the definition of church that makes the most sense to them (usually).
And when we leave I think they can feel rejected. All of a sudden, this thing that they hold dear is being questioned and prodded like the Spanish Inquisition. Which is often exactly how we feel upon leaving too. And our talk of 'out of the box' or 'sunday club' doesn't help.
Wayne and Brad have mentioned something similar over the past few weeks in the podcast, and I think we need to be aware of this:
Often people in the thing feel more rejected and hurt by us leaving than anything else. Although I believe this is something Dad will complete, I think it's important for us to be aware of what we say and how we say it. I know my heart isn't to hurt the people still in 'church'. Because I believe that this 'way' carries less religion and more freedom, I do feel that people would be better off without it, but I don't want this to hurt them, I want it to heal them. I think I carry some anger towards the structure and religion that has enslaved me all these years, and as I fight out against that, people still 'in the prison' feel the effect of my attack on the prison structure... (go with the metaphor for now - it's how I felt about it, not saying it is that way)
So, as I've become more aware of this, I've become more aware of what I say and how I say it. I spent most of the evening of the last day of 2008 in discussion with friends of mine on how we should be listening to God lead us, and not necessarily just busying ourselves with what we think is right.
I think it's an important discussion, and some of the points that were raised we great. The problem is that 1, it really drained me (I suppose talking for 2-odd hours will do that) and 2, I felt like my friends thought I'd lost it a little, and was being a little too liberal.
What I hope for is that some of what I said at least encourages them to think about what and why they believe what they do, but I'm becoming more aware of not getting into these convo's because I can :) it's not wise to simply argue everything because someone believes slightly differently to me (ok on some areas, it's not 'slight').
Unfortunately my actions, although wanting to prove my heart right, often gets in the way of that. I always come back to - it's about our relationship with God. Nothing else really matters, and nothing else will matter unless it's fruit of that relationship. Now, this is largely what was the topic of contention, but, for me, the truth of that is paramount. Because of that, I get into arguments, but the thing is, I think with some people discussions are helpful, but if it's just a rally of words, no one gets anywhere, especially not nearer to a loving Father.
The truth is - if everything IS about relationship with God, and nothing matters unless it's defined by that relationship, then it isn't the words of that thought that matter, it's the reality of it. So arguing why I'm right when I say this can possibly be very unhelpful in getting this truth to sink in, even though the truth is being said (I think this has larger implications other than this topic) - often there's a better way.
I think it's the way of love. As much as I long for my friends, family and others to accept me. To give me the space to believe what I do and to trust that if I'm seeking God, I'll be ok - so to should I extend that to people not on the same page as me. (I appologise for the 'should' godjourney fans :) )
If we simply love others - I know that comes from what God does in us - and I think me writing this is because the Holy Spirit is working on this in me - then, hopefully, by them experiencing the love we have for them, they will be more open to understanding the love Dad has for them, and their walls and boundaries will start falling down - because of what God is doing, not me.
Words are good, but as Paul says, the tongue can be vicious. Let us then watch what we say to our brothers, and not lash out at them, especially if they are still stuck in the religion. I know it's hard when we're fresh out of the system. There's a lot of hurt, pain and rejection that God is dealing with in our own lives, and it's a difficult place to have grace for others as well (especially for those who have hurt us). But let us pray for the grace to at least have our words and actions tempered by love. That we may be angry at the system, but will see our brother and sisters who may still go to 'church' as our brothers and sisters. Not as the enemy, or less than us. They, as much as we, are in desperate need of our saviour. We were all made for this relationship with Him, and I'm sure they are longing for it as much as you are - and besides, if it's all about the relationship, what does it matter if people are in (or out) of this box called 'church'.
Let's learn to love and live loved by Love incarnate.