Dear Russell & Friends,
We’re less than a week away from the first anniversary of our writing adventure. We shall reclaim Friday the 13th for something useful. As confessed before, I find myself reflective – – almost in a New Year’s Eve-y kind of mood. Why are we here? Does it matter? Recent comments have reminded me. We are here to form friendships that can ask hard questions in the dining room. I used to think the family room, but Mrs. Pascal won’t routinely let me eat in there. Something else has struck me as I better read and understand my friend CC (Russell’s wife). My call is forming to the skeptical – – I honestly find so many to be so likeable and interesting. My call is also forming to revise the hearts of people like me who ignored, reviled, or discounted them for so long. I actually do love the church – – not a building, but a community of Christ followers. And because I love the church, I am willing to humbly criticize it – – realizing that the first to be criticized is me.
What did I need to hear? Avoiding the skeptic and painting her with a thin haired brush is too pious by half. She does care about justice and mercy because she was made in the image of God – – whether she has acknowledged that God or not. She does things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Think on those things.
What did I need to hear? Is there anything in my life or theology that is attractive or worthy of imitation? Has it become about social acceptability and one-off platitudes for me? Should I defend a broken American church or work to reform her? I’m landing more on the side of the latter. Love reforms. Love criticizes his own heart, his own family, his own motives.
What did I need to hear? Will I tolerate the continued scandal of the evangelical mind, or join the heritage of the Jesuits and engage my mind, culture, and tribe of humanity?
What did I need to hear? The health and wealth gospel that I was raised with was a false gospel. Joel Osteen is a false prophet. The authentic gospel (discovered in my twenties) changed my whole life. The authentic gospel saved the greatest wrath for the pharisee, not the sinner. I have been both. Remember the mercy you were given Pascal – – how dare you not offer it freely to another?
I am grateful for our friends and readers who follow Christ. You may be the silent majority. I hope that reading here will change the inclination of your heart just as writing here has done for me. If we take Jesus seriously, how can we not weep for the pain caused in his name? How can we not stand for something different in our generation? St. Augustine saw the Visigoths sack Rome in 410 AD and died with the Vandals at the gate in North Africa. He stood in a time of transition and was called to speak truth to his generation – – remember that he wrote to the church. Now we stand in the post-modern, pre-future chasm. Can’t we just call it the present? What will we do? We will care about our generation and reclaim the authentic gospel that deeply cares about people and profoundly transforms lives. If we present an authentic gospel, it can rise or fall on its own merits. I will no longer defend or tolerate the false.
photo credit: © Frank Schulenburg /