The speaker at our church today talked about loving others. Our last song was about how much God loves 'us'. It's not that the song and message don't work together on some level but I was a bit unsettled as I prepared to send our crowd out the doors.
I remember saying something like this. "Yes, God loves us. That's true. But he also loves 'them' and we've all got a 'them' in our life. And if this love relationship with God is going to mean anything we've got to learn to love those we point our fingers at." And then I prayed us out the door.
I'm still unsettled and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's a reaction to an individualistic, pietistic response to faith. You know what I'm talking about. It's about Me and Jesus and asking for His blessing to continue to do the things that aren't really good for my soul and are actually sinful but I feel I'm entitled to do them.
Part of the unsettledness is also a reaction to those who try to take the whole of the Good News (and it's more than personal salvation) and gerry rig it into teensy eensy pieces to justify a political or economic philosophy that can be the antithesis of what Christ actually intended.
And I am unsettled because I'd rather sing about how much God loves me much of the time instead of considering the 'them' God is always concerned about.
And I find myself guilty of self serving pietism, proof texting to justify lifestyle and attitude, and doing far too much talking about the walk instead of walking the talk.
Next week I preach on the ten year anniversary of 9.11. It has special relevance for our church because we lost one of our staff members who was aboard the plane that crashed into one of the Twin Towers. We knew early on he was on the plane and it made the day all the more chilling. And I am unsettled about what to say.
It's not hard to talk about the emotion or the feelings of that day in history. And we will. It's good to recall and remember. But many will want a rallying cry to America the Beautiful. And as much as I love our country I worry that patriotism trumps Christ for way too many. And I need to remind people of the way of Jesus which is often more than waving the red, white and blue. And in the case of 9.11 the specter of 'them' still remains and how do we find ways to love those we are naturally inclined to marginalize and perhaps even hate.
Let me be clear. Terrorism is not of God. Terrorists need to be brought to justice. Whether it happens in the classroom where a child is bullied, in a home where a wife is abused, in the words of drive by gossipers, or in the intentional taking of life by hate filled factions terrorist actions are detestable. Utterly detestable. And yet I know that world.
I've never plotted to take a life but I've done other things that have diminished another human being. And it was wrong. And at time like that how thankful I was for a God who forgives and people who loved me despite what they saw and helped me to become a human being again.
I wonder in our post 9.11 world how willing we are to make steps toward understanding, towards reconciliation, towards bridge building and open arms. The 9.11 terrorists took the willingness to trust away from us. And that inability to trust is killing us. Trust needs to be restored one interaction at a time. When we live with a mind-set that labels people 'us' and 'them' we miss out on opportunities to build the Kingdom of God. We can't afford to miss those opportunities any longer.
Pray for me this next week for the right words, the right attitude, and the right degree of biblical challenge. Pray that my unsettledness can be used by God to call people to a higher purpose and instill in them a desire to help build a country that cares about the things God cares about.