Laura and I were driving back from a meeting the other night.
I’ve known Laura for years and we’ve re-established our friendship this past year as we’ve joined forces to build a Classical Conversations community here in Bend.
“Where are you attending church now?”, she asked.
We get that question often as we’ve wandered from here to there these past few years.
I tell her the name of the body of believers we’ve only recently started meeting with and was more than a little nonplussed by her response.
“Really? I’m surprised. You and your husband are so much deeper spiritually than that fellowship.”
I don’t like being put into a box. I don’t like the very real truth that it lies within human nature to put a label on the people around ourselves and then to comfortably quantify them into easily compartmentalized parcels so we don’t have to think too hard or engage our brains too much. it’s true. It happens. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
What is it about me that would make people think I’m too “deep” for a fellowship known for it’s adherence to a simple Gospel. A steady, even, “love Jesus and work to serve His people” kind of fellowship that is long on opportunities to get saved and short on eschatological debate and Greek/Hebrew lexicon.
Simplicity. Homespun faith. And that’s wrong…why? That’s “less than” in the circles of Christianity…why?
I sat in church this morning with about 300+ other people and heard a simple message: Be like Ruth. Unswerving, humble, diligent. Be willing to stretch.
Be aware that you are, that I am, sanctified. Consecrated. Set apart for God’s purpose, not the indulgence of our own lives.
And nary a smidge of pretentious posturing.
Every person in that gymnasium/sanctuary, from my 13 year old son to the precious 80 year old gentleman in the wheelchair in front of me understood and walked away with something to chew on, something to hold on to, something to inspire them to be more like the God who welcomed a Gentile widow into the lineage of Christ and that Gentile widow who was willing to give up everything familiar to stay faithful to everything this Israelite God had for her.
And, yet, somehow, in my interaction with my new/old friend, Laura, she saw someone who would be above that kind of fellowship. I have been perceived as one who would find such simplicity beneath my interest and beneath my level of spiritual maturity.
There is a part of my heart that grieves within me at the thought of being perceived as “too deep”. I recognize the part of me that looks proudly put together. There is the part of me that, while excited about all of those deep and complex points of Biblical study and a passion for the development of wisdom and virtue that comes with devoted study, can actually become a stumbling block in the lives of those around me. I can appear to be above the foundational truth of needing a Savior, forgiveness and direction. Every day.
I recognize that I must actively work to be more like the God who welcomed a Gentile widow into the lineage of Christ so I will be less likely to appear like those who looked down on her while she gleaned.
Sure, I have a hard time with the Americanized Western philosophy of Churchianity. Sure, I have issues with the idolatry of the man up front and the circus that has become our concept of “fellowship”.
Being surrounded by those who call on the name of the Lord? There’s nothing like it. I have nothing to prove. This is family. These are sisters and brothers. Some know more than I do, some know less. I cannot justify sitting at home cursing the alienation I have imposed upon myself if I am unwilling to be where other believers are gathering.
Perhaps someday I will be blessed to experience the organic, New Testament style fellowship that I long for. I do believe that someday we will no longer be able to gather in large groups, to sing loudly and declare with boldness the Gospel. Someday that season will end and we will have to redefine all our terms and re-examine all our paradigms.
And in that day? The simple story of love, hope, provision, redemption and hope will be paramount. No one will care if you quote Kierkegaard or Luther, if you have a clever definition for Christian communisim/communalism or if you have a Ph.D in Divinity. We will be evaluated by the bruises, the scars, the sufferings. We will be defined again by blood and sweat and tears.
And we’ll look a whole lot more like Jesus then than we do now.