Recently, I feel like there has been a growing amount of reading material that has speaking to me about Grace, as I meditate on it. You know, helping your neighbor, and loving your enemy.
I was perusing through Facebook, one morning, and ran into my union’s Facebook page. There are all sorts of people in the NWSEO that lean in every direction politically. Sometimes, the discussion gets quite heated and off topic from union issues when some of the more politically minded people start squaring off. In one case, there was a guy who had been raised in, blue collar/union is everything, type of family. Sometimes the threads will go on the member vs. non-member of the union. If your not familiar with government service unions, you are not required to join. However, the union negotiates the collective bargaining agreement with the NWS/NOAA, so there are people who benefit from the union without being in the union. This gets to rubs some people the wrong way to the point that some call the non-union people scabs.
I have noticed that in the church, and I’m speaking broadly about the church, that I have witnessed, and read of stories where some people are turned away, if they didn’t do what the people in the church thought they needed to do to earn some service from the church. I’m not necessarily talking about services for the poor, but services for the members.
The gets me to thinking, when do you turn away services to a member or a non-member? I remember that in a church I went to in the past, that another member was annoyed with somebody that the church gave assistance to, wasn’t a consistent church goer and, I think, would go to church somewhere else at times. They felt that there should have been some sort of loyalty to our church. However, I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude. If we are all believers, but at different places in our story, should loyalty to a church matter, if one is in need? Or do we just ignore them again?
There is a tension. The tension is between helping the person, regardless of their status, believer, non-believer, or someone seeking or not seeking; versus enabling them. Mary and I see this played out day in and day out in our lives. There are people that can be rather maddening in the way that they treat others, and yet come to us for help, usually in a way that seems very manipulative. As I’ve told Mary, we persevere through the manipulation, and help, hopefully to speak into their lives.
However, There is another side to this. Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church (St. Joseph, MO) says, “Beauty will save the world.” I’m starting to feel that the church in America, has chased relevance, so far, that instead of being relevant to people, they have become utilitarian (use this product and be cool!). We are in the Box Store mentality that the culture has ushered us down. There is little beauty to left in the world, or in the Christian Church in America. So we give aid, and then people go back to their individual stories, of boring drab lives of trying to acquire things to achieve meaning.
I have to say, that there have been times when I feel like the story of my life has been boring and utilitarian, and other times beautifully written, as if there was an author whom my character actually listened to (Read Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). Life was filled with astonishing beauty. In some ways, as Mary and I look to move back to Gaylord, I’m looking for an epic story to be a part of, something astonishingly beautiful. When people hear about it, they are brought to tears from the beauty of it. As crazy as things sound, there is something astonishing going on that they want to be a part of.
So who should be served by the church? Everyone, because they need to see the beauty of the Creator in the way that we live. And when they ask why we do what we do, we tell them the astonishing, crazy, beautiful story of a God, who became a baby, to an unmarried teenager, that in today’s world would be just as shunned. Who grew up just like us learning a trade, but turned out to teach the Torah very well, and then took a bunch of unschooled fishermen and taught them what he knew. Somewhere along the line, he managed to make enemies with the local church officials, and the government overseeing the country he lived in. The enemies turned and killed him, but when they did, he took all of the guilt and shame for our rebellious acts, and buried them with him. Then he rose 3 days later, to a new life and body, having given all, to the ones he created…and that beautifully astonishing story continues to go on through the disciples that spread his words to all the earth.