We live in a broken world and there is no escaping it.
If you open a Bible, have relationships with anyone besides your pet fish or ever leave your house, you will experience pain, conflict and tension.
And anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian is called to grieve over painful realities like racism, economic inequality, sex trafficking and the Syrian refugee crisis.
You and I were not made for this broken world and we long for the perfect world that is to come, where every tear will be wiped away and death is defeated once and for all. AND AT THE SAME TIME, God has invited us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Him on this earth amidst the brokenness and participate in His plan of bringing glimpses of His Kingdom here on earth.
We cannot walk in that tension or open our eyes unless we are willing to listen to things that are uncomfortable or even offend us. We cannot grieve over others pain, unless we first quiet our need to minimize, justify or fix that pain.
We must listen to other’s stories, ESPECIALLY those different than us that we have a natural inclination to disagree with or if we are going to really understand the world around us.
Perhaps all of this is why attending Creating Options Together, a conference put on by Cru’s Inner City ministry, was challenging and so refreshing. Speakers shared from their own cultural perspective how to step into problems while trusting God is big enough to change what we see.
God did not promise a life of comfort. God did PROMISE we would have trouble in this world, and in His next breath Jesus assured us He has overcome the world. He commands us to speak up for the oppressed, love the poor and to treat refugees and immigrants as natural born citizens (Deut 10:19, Leviticus 19:34)
Isn’t it odd that so many people keep struggling with the question, “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” When the Bible is literally covered with scriptures telling us the answer.
As a Church, we haven’t historically done well acknowledging the needs around us, let alone fixing them.
But the conference encouraged me that it’s not too late. A variety of speakers challenged us that lamenting over the past enables us to start to enter into the problems of today. And that often as we do this, our perfect little world is disrupted and is an offense to our false sense of control.
“We cannot claim to be wealthy or a worshiper if we are indifferent to the poor,” Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor with Anacostia River Church, said at the conference.
This attitude directly contradicts the American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. Claiming to follow Christ, while responding to others in need with a judgmental attitude spits in the face of the gospel. Christ came not because we got ourselves together, but because we cannot.
Author Judy Wu Dominick further emphasized why we need to not only press into the hard realities in our world, but also those that lie inside of with grace and justice.
“If we haven’t adequately met our own pain or mess, we will either recoil [people], or abuse them because they function as a mirror of our hearts that we most often want to forget … Our ability to care for people isn’t as much limited by the size of our wallets but the capacity of our hearts,” she said.
You and I are in need. We need the poor. We need those who are different than us. We need Jesus.
God is calling you to respond to those around you, to engage with the things that might make you uncomfortable. You can start by watching the sessions of the conference with humility while you prayerfully ask the Lord:
- What mess and pain in my own life do I need to bring to God and share with others?
- What lies do I believe about people from a different race, economic status, political party or country than me?
- What lies do I believe about myself when it comes to pressing into the needs of the world?
- What attitudes towards the poor and marginalized do I need to repent?
- God, how are you calling me to respond with my life?
If every American Christian could listen to this conference with honesty, humility and a teachable heart than I think American Christianity and America would be vastly different.
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