The split is overwhelming. What was supposed to be a relaxing few days spent with my friend and her family has turned into a gigantic question mark looming over my head. These people, who I’ve known for years as kindred spirits, now seem distant and remote. Not to say that they aren’t as hospitable and loving as ever, but their thought patterns and life stances that once meshed so closely with my own now hum a tune of discordance. When I came here, I knew there was the possibility of this happening. I knew that there was potential for my change in thought patterns to be seen as something of a departure from my past. What I wasn’t expecting was how drastic this change would feel.
Tonight, my friends invited an extra guest to dinner. It was a set-up. My friend’s husband had approached his wife months ago and suggested a pairing between me and a friend of theirs. My friend thought this was a brilliant idea. When she asked me what I thought of being set up with someone, my exact response was, “Why not. I don’t seem to be doing terribly well for myself.”
The evening went off without a hitch, and the man they set me up with was lovely. Similar to all of my past dates in the past two years with Christian men, there wasn’t that zing. There was no chemistry. A delightful man just happened to come for dinner, and then we all chatted for hours. That’s it. And while we got along well, and he seemed interested in my life and hearing about living in the inner city, I couldn’t help but notice how different I was from him.
When talk turned to faith, as it inevitably does with this group, I noticed a shocking change in dynamics. Thoughts shared that I once would have agreed with, I found to be tedious and no longer an issue. Ideas such as women in office don’t hold the same weight for me anymore. Sharing the gospel by telling people you believe they will go to hell is not my idea of evangelizing. My thoughts have changed. How can I worry about women in office when there are women selling their bodies on my street corner? How can I preach about hell to the one standing next to me when Christ himself never mentions it? How can I judge the pot head when I have sinful struggles of my own? Plank. Speck. Enough said. And yet, as I sit in a room with people I love, I find that they are so stuck on theology, that they neglect to seriously put themselves into the great commission. They don’t have to move to the inner city. God wants his people in the country too. But when you are so stuck on church division and issues, how can you follow the lead of Christ? How can you follow his call to, “Love your neighbhour as yourself,” when you spend so much time focusing on the domestic squabbles and differences in the institutional church, and on judging those who fall outside of the institutional church. Christ’s call was to love, not to judge. Christ’s call was to put words into action, not to simply talk. And while talk is important, if it is not followed up by something more than that, we simply blow hot air into a world that already has enough worries about global warming.
The conservative, insular Christians look at me now as radical, maybe even wrong. My friends in the city are made up of the Muslim, the pot head, the depressed, the prostitute, the Atheist, the lonely, the gay, the sick and the lost. I half expected my friends to ask, “Who has friends like that? What Christian spends time with people like that?” But I know the conclusion they would come to: The one who started it all. The one we call Saviour and Friend. Christ.
So while I feel a lack of understanding, I also feel from these people a sense of awe. They see me as being something special. My friend’s husband said, “I could never do that. I’m just a country boy. To go and choose a life like that? To live in the inner city surrounded by those people? You have to be strong to do that.”
My dear friend, I am not strong. It is Christ who gives me strength. I see nothing special about myself. I only see areas where I have not done enough and feel called to do more. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am strong. For after all, do the scriptures not say,’ ”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9. Indeed, it is my prayer that in my weakness, I may be strong because of Christ working through me.