Forgiveness… without reconciliation. Waiting… . Hoping… . Praying… . And Fighting.
I spend time daily with God talking about important things. Time. Daily. Things important to me. Things important to him. By far, most of my prayers offer thanx. I practice gratitude – thankfulness to God for the blessings he pours into my life and into this world – things important to me. I ask his help with things important to him. One of the most important things is reconciliation. Reconciliation is right at the heart of what Jesus is all about (Colo. 1:20).
Despite my prayer, I spend a lot of time and energy in conflict – conflict with God’s people especially. I have talked about this before and even explored the possibility that I might just be a contentious crank. But in all the years I have spent in prayer about some of these conflicts, I still see God’s people kicking Jesus out of church (or not answering the door when he knocks (Rev. 3:20)), and that just cannot be right – even if we find “unity” in it.
And there’s the rub, I think. Getting it RIGHT AND getting us all TOGETHER is just too hard to do. If and when it happens, we must drop to our knees and thank God for his mysterious providence, because we will never pull it off without him. How can so many good, smart, talented, well-intentioned people get so much so right and yet be so obstinate and unified in the parts we get wrong?
I don’t know.
I happen to be a confirmed Catholic as well as Protestant. Believe me! I am troubled by a Jesus-loving church that has been exposed for pedophile priests AND especially exposed for systematically covering it up too! How can that be? How can the Catholic Church get so much so right but get this so very wrong??? Is it like they just don’t really know any better? Of course not! There are some unexplained kinds of pressures, social and economic forces, political agendas bubbling up through the ranks of decision makers and powerbrokers who stand to be shamed, embarrassed, and humiliated, resulting in a fear that acknowledging the sin would do more harm than covering it up, thus aiding and abetting the evil as it devastates little people that no one really cares for anyway.
Catholics are not alone in this. It’s happening in our Protestant churches too. Child abuse AND flagrant sexual misconduct against women (maybe even a few men!) coming to light more and more in the wake of the ME TOO movement. Actually, these scandals have been rocking the church for 30 years or more. There is no sign they are letting up.
And I could be contentious over lots of issues. I don’t like the music or the drapes. Not really. And the deacon teaching my Bible class has a nasally laugh. But it’s not ME that needs to be satisfied, actually, and none of that rises to the level of JUDGMENT. So I don’t fuss over that stuff.
But leaving homeless people outside on the streets in the cold is just NOT THE JESUS WAY! There is no passage that supports it. On the contrary, there are heavy-weight passages that challenge it. And so our continued practice of it is just not acceptable.
Have you ever suffered through a cold night on the hard pavement outside a locked up church-house door?
And it makes an impression! Not one I can just forget or overlook for the sake of unity.
Ever read Matthew 25? Luke 14-15? What about James 2? Deuteronomy 14 & 15? Psalm 10? Psalm 35? Amos??? I can’t just overlook those passages for the sake of unity either.
But I pray. I ask God to forgive us. I seek change among us. I bring words of conviction, and I am shunned for it. Shunned FOR IT! Kicked out of the church! Marginalized. They sure ain’t gonna hire me!
I ask God to forgive. I do this daily. DAILY!
I didn’t always. I was so busy meeting with those opposed to welcoming the poor in their special meetings, in trying to arrange meetings where I was stood up, and in arguing through text messages on my phone as I lay in a city park with a group of homeless people from their very flock, shivering in the cold, and I didn’t think at first to ask God to forgive them.
But in time, I did.
And then I asked God to give me a heart that forgives them too. I wasn’t FEELING it. Not really. But I asked God to help me with it. And this too has become my daily prayer.
And I believe the forgiveness is there. It is offered genuinely. I trust that God is working on my heart too. And yet there is no reconciliation.
So I spend time talking to God about these church people as I spiritually stand in their shoes for a moment. And I find myself THANKING God FOR THEM! How ironic is that? I thank God that real people with real needs come to these churches and get real needs met there every day! There is, after all, a reason I wanted to be involved there to begin with, and it has to do with the good blessings these church people offer to the poor every day. Yes. I thank God for every crumb that falls from the table. AND.. And I thank God that these church people have answered the call to help – to serve people the world is only too happy to ignore and scorn. I thank God these churches reach out at all! They get so much right, actually, while getting this very important thing so very, deeply wrong. And I cannot just overlook it for the sake of unity.
I pray for forgiveness.
And there is no reconciliation.
A mission from God.
Reconciliation, not reconnaissance.
I wait for it. But it is not there.
I am out and so are my street friends. The least of these brothers (Jesus) are still locked out. Not reconciled. Locked out.
Day after day.
Month after month.
Year after year.
And the fight goes on.
I wait in hope for a dawning age when not just the children of the Catholic Church can worship God without being raped, but a day when my Protestant brothers will open the door to Jesus and actually LET HIM IN to party with us!
But in the meantime…
still no reconciliation…
still locked out…