My heart is heavy…
Friends, I’m sorry that it has been three weeks (and a day)… I was really on a roll there for a few, right?
I think that lately, I have just had too much on my mind.
Judgement of others’ sins has been weighing heavily on me… and I’m trying to be sure I’m walking the path God would have me walk. A path that doesn’t mean I sit back and say nothing to a friend who is sinning because I do not want to be judgmental, but that does call me to judge for myself when to speak and when to be silent.
Personal reflection (feel free to laugh at me)…
When I was in middle school and also in my freshman year of high school it drove me CRAZY that the teens older than me at church always missed Sunday morning following their prom. Yes, I was aware that prom usually lasted until 11:00 and that following prom was the PTA sponsored “Party All Night” that lasted until 4:00 a.m. BUT, that put you getting home by 4:30 a.m. and if you went straight to bed, you could sleep at least four hours (depending on how close you lived to the church) and be at church in time for Sunday School at 10:00 a.m. or at the very least, be in the pew by 11:00 a.m. for church.
I never said this to any of those teens, but I ranted and raved about it at home to my mother… didn’t those teens know how important church attendance was? Didn’t they know that if you missed church Sunday morning and Jesus returned Sunday afternoon you were going STRAIGHT TO HELL????
Well, I got to go to my first prom my sophomore year of high school. (And Hello! I was MADE to go to prom… I ended up attending 6(?) proms in five years.) My date was a friend named Michael – a friend who adored me and who would’ve made a great husband some day, but I totally didn’t see that even though my mom kept insisting upon it. We went to dinner with a huge group (10 of us) at Tobacco Company West – no longer in existence – because I loved steak and Michael convinced the other four guys to take their girls where I wanted to go. When I couldn’t pick one dessert, he bought me FIVE so that I could taste them all.
GIRLS: IF YOU EVER GO ON A DATE WITH A GUY WHO TREATS YOU LIKE THIS…expecting nothing in return…THEN MARRY HIM THE NEXT DAY AND NEVER LET HIM GO.
We went to prom and danced and danced and danced…
Then we went to Party All Night and stayed there until 4:00 a.m.
THEN, we went to a friend’s house where we hung out until Dunkin Donuts opened at 5 or 5:30 so that we could go to Dunkin’ for breakfast together.
I dragged my butt home at 6:00 a.m. with four hours to go until Sunday School started.
I laid down to take a nap and mom woke me up when she left for church at 9:30 and told me to get my tail up and get ready. I was in a pew at 11:00 a.m. that morning and totally understood why the teens older than me missed church the day after prom.
Note: My mom did not wake me up because I asked her to… she knew I’d beat myself up for being a hypocrite if she didn’t make sure I got up and ready for church. I’m pretty sure she would’ve just let me sleep…
I was determined that since I was going to be judged by the ruler I used to judge others, I was going to be sure I came out on the good side. At least for that year.
Turned out that God loved me enough to allow me a reason to be in church the next morning following all but one prom that I attended… each year something happened that meant that I was home by 1:00 a.m. with plenty of time to sleep before church… a car accident two days prior, a bad decision for prom date, being too old to party with the teens (I went as a favor to a friend of my brother’s when I was 20. He was a senior without a date to prom and there isn’t much worse than that in high school).
Funny how God works sometimes, right?
What is really funny is that one of the areas that I still find myself being the most judgmental in is church attendance. And it isn’t because I was expected to be in church whenever the doors were open (which I was – that meant at least one morning and two nights a week, I was in church growing up).
Church – as in corporate worship – is very renewing for me. I look forward to Sundays with such anticipation…. Most of my closest friendships throughout my life were rooted in church. Yes, some of those people broke my heart in very dramatic fashion, but my church family is what really got me through it.
My decision to leave my “home” church in December was one of the hardest decisions of my life. It was far more painful than having my heart broken at 19 by a boy I knew I was destined to marry… (I still deal with bitterness about this… it was that painful). It was far more painful than my divorce at 21. Leaving my church was more painful than the heartbreak two years ago that started the whole ball in motion in the first place.
When I decided to leave my church, I sought advice from my only youth minister growing up. Do you know one of the things he said to me? The first piece of advice from him was “Don’t give up on church.” Whoa, buddy, no chance of that! CHURCH is where I have found the most love, the least judgement, the most support throughout my life.
The rest of that first piece of advice was “to find somewhere to chill for a while and then get slowing involved”. If you know me well, then you know that his advice was a reference to the fact that for just over 18 months, I was extremely over-committed at church. Some of that came out of guilt… If I didn’t do that “job”, then who would. Some of that came out of actual servanthood. But when you get hurt by people you love and trust in the church, you do need to take a step back and be fed for a while.
And am I getting fed where I currently am??? Yes, very much so.
But that is not why my heart is heavy.
Through the course of the last two years, I’ve seen such pain being caused BY Christians.
I know this is nothing new, but my blinders came off two years ago and what I saw broke my heart.
I’m still sorting through the effect it had on me.
Recently, a Christian friend was judged so painfully that it has really broken my heart again.
The first time she went through judgement for her sin, it was judgement in the church and in the legal system. I found out about her sin/crime by seeing her face on the 11:00 news while out bowling with friends. I left the bowling alley immediately and went home to wake my daddy. I knew she would need him right then, right there.
My friend served and is STILL SERVING time within the legal system for the crime she committed.
However, her legal restrictions do not apply to church attendance or volunteering within the church.
Fellow Christians recently went after her for attending an area-wide youth event with her own child. She was not breaking any law by doing so. She was not coming close to breaking any law by taking her own child to this activity.
BUT because two people who saw her there knew of her past and her crime, they decided to go after her in a public forum. No, her face is not being shown to the public as it was when her sin was first committed… but they have talked to many people about her past and about the need to bar her from being present at that type of activity – EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT AGAINST THE LAW FOR HER TO BE THERE.
The Separation of Church and State makes me laugh – literally!
And it is the view of “the church” that gets me laughing…
We in the corporate body of church, meeting in a building called the church, do not want the government to interfere with us in any way, shape or form, yet Christians get money they “donate” to the church back in a tax return.
We don’t want the government to tell us what we can and can’t do… unless we are being bullied by someone else and then we want government protection.
And please do not jump down my throat right now about how Christians are consistently being bullied right now – I totally agree with that. I am expected to respect any person’s religious beliefs, but mine are not “politically correct” enough to be respected. I feel that deeply but that isn’t my point.
We don’t want the government to tell us who can/can’t work for our church (does your church have a homosexual on staff?) BUT if we want to invoke government-imposed limits to those within our congregation, we do.
Tell you what – I am not against churches/church camps doing background checks on their volunteers. Bring me the form, I’ll sign it now (I fill one out every single year to work at Oak Hill and, eventually, I will fill one out at Fairmount so that I’m able to volunteer there).
BUT, if you are going to CREATE legal limits to attendance at an area-wide event, you’d better be background checking every single person over the age of 18 that walks through the doors.
This is a message to the Student Ministries of Virginia…
I served on your board for several years. I was bullied on a regular basis because I was a woman with a voice and an opinion. When I stepped down from the youth ministry I was running, I stepped down off your board and you didn’t have to hear the “battle ax” any longer. Well, I’m back…
Just because one of your members knows the personal past of one adult in a sea of many, it doesn’t give you the right to move against that ONE person… especially if that person was NOT breaking ANY law set forth by the government.
You’d better cross your t’s and dot your i’s…
Are you background checking every member of every band that walks in the door?
Are you background checking the college kids in attendance representing their schools?
Are you requiring that every church that attends runs background checks on every adult they send as a chaperone? (Because, while it has become the “norm” in the past five years, there are churches that aren’t requiring them yet.)
If an adult walks in with their child -not affiliated or registered with any church in attendance- will you have your background check form read for them to fill out at the door?
HEAR ME CLEARLY FRIENDS – I AM NOT SAYING THAT AS CHRISTIANS WE AREN’T CALLED TO BE CAUTIOUS AND TO USE GOOD JUDGEMENT (especially when it comes to our children), BUT WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT WHEN AND AGAINST WHOM WE DECIDE TO EXERCISE OUR JUDGEMENT. And how many people need to be involved in our pointing out of the flaw. What happened to going to a brother or sister face to face first? Is going public with another Christian’s error now the way we’re supposed to do it?
CHRISTIANS TEND TO GET COMFORTABLE UP IN OUR HIGH IVORY TOWERS OF FOLLOWING JESUS….
In the fall of 1996 when I entered Roanoke Bible College as a freshman, Bill Griffin told us something I will NEVER forget. He said that we needed to be ON THE ALERT for Satan…
He said that we needed to be very careful about feeling “safe” because we were on a Bible College campus. He asked us where we thought Satan was the hardest at work… out in “the world” or in a place full of people professing God’s name and calling themselves “Christ followers”. Let me tell you, the MOMENT we let our guard down and start to feel safe enough to pass judgement on others, Satan is going to come after us with everything in his arsenal.
That girl I talked about at the beginning of this post – the one who sat in judgement of teens who missed church after prom… well, she still lives inside of me and I work HARD to keep her in check.
I struggle every day with how best to share the loving side of God without forgetting to share the HOLY side of God, too. But I’m working on it.
There is such a thing as “righteous judgement”, but that isn’t judgement coming from any human being.
Righteous judgement comes from GOD and GOD ALONE.
We, as Christians, are called to a three part mission: (1) To love the Lord our God with our heart, our soul, and our mind (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37); (2) that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39); and (3) that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).
I pray daily for the strength to live up to this mission of loving the world unto Christ.
It is a big job, but it is my *only* job as a Christ-follower.
If I am going to stand in judgement of anyone – a criminal, a liar, a cheater, a gossip, a God-hater, one who is disobedient, a homosexual, the senseless, the faithless, the heartless, the proud – than I’d better be sure that GOD has my back.. and that I’m not just trying to BE GOD.
Father, watch over me today… watch over my steps and help me walk where you lead me.
Watch over my family… keep them faithful to YOU.
Lord, keep me in line so that I don’t start to believe that I “represent” you… so that I don’t believe that I AM you. Thank you for your forgiveness… for your grace… for your mercy.
Let me be the person who personifies your love and leaves you to judge.
Help me see that if I bring a friend to love YOU, YOU will bring to light the sins in their life that need addressing. In the moment I feel that you are prodding me to address a sin in a friend’s life, let me be sure to pray first and be sure it is YOU prodding me and not pride… then give me the words to go about talking to them using Your Word as a guide and not just the world’s guidelines.
The more I learn about you, Father, the more deeply I love you.
Lead me where you would have me go and give me the strength and courage to follow.
In your son’s saving name, Amen.