The pot is being stirred and there is a lot of spillage. The church is struggling with its identity in a rapidly changing world. Everyone, inside and outside, has an opinion - maybe more than one. Sometimes we are fighting the world. Sometimes we are fighting each other. Sometimes we put our collective feet in our mouths.
Sometimes I get sick of Christians.
Sometimes I get sick of myself.
Many recent conversations have not brought out the best in me.
It is hard to hang out with people who have more answers than questions. This has been building up. Others are making definitions of who is what and codifying them with really long and specific lists.
Sometimes I find it easier to relate to non-Christians who don't claim to have all the answers than to my brothers who are sure that they do.
"Are you biblical, traditional, emergent, liberal, conservative, seeker-sensitive, or what? Careful. Consult the list of criteria before answering."
"Pick a category. Hurry!"
I take Jesus' words, "Seek and ye shall find" to point toward an ongoing process of seeking and finding and seeking some more and finding some more and never being settled and done.
So I come to most conversations with a mixture of dogmatism and ambiguity, a tentative confidence grounded in solid faith, but flexible from the ground up.
I get frustrated with friends who want to finish every conversation with a hard and fast pronouncement. I want to say, "That tree is still alive and subject to quite a bit of movement as it grows upward."
What I know is that as it grows upward, its roots sink deeper - and that is what accounts for my peace and confidence.
If we put most of our focus on the roots without ignoring what is seen, we can do whatever it is we do with trees with the rest of our time and energy.
But it is the root of things that matters most and I see a lot of attention being given to leaves and bark.
What occurs to me is that Jesus said He was the vine; we were the branches; God handled the pruning; and our task was to abide.
I suppose I need to let Him handle the outgrowths that keep annoying and embarrassing me with their references to imprecatory prayers against anyone with whom they disagree or that they see as a threat to God - who has a pretty good track record of being able to take care of Himself.
And thank God He ignores ridiculous prayers where we presume to know who should live or die.
Maybe He chuckles at our assumptions that we must desperately rescue civilization so that his Kingdom will not die from our neglect. It is not that we are not called to engage, transform, influence, and preserve culture. It is a matter of balance and of seeing the larger Kingdom picture which includes thousands of years of chaotic world history and a big world that stretches far beyond our Western orientation.
It is not just the really obnoxious and grotesque examples of mean-spirited distortions of Christianity, but the more subtle things that are bothering me.
Everyone seems to know where things need to be pruned and I see a potentially lopsided bush forming. Many Christians are just so sure of themselves and what they have "found" in their brief forays into seeking territory.
"We ought to do this and not that. We should be doing such an so. Everyone should stand up for this and against that and we all need to pull together and stand against sin and this is the sin we should be focusing on and isn't it awful that some people don't see it quite the way we do and don't you know that it is us against them and what we need is courage and courage is doing what I say you ought to be doing and please don't question it. And we have to get back to the Bible and these are the verses on which we should focus and this is how it should be done and don't forget to use the right words and slogans and we are right and everyone else is wrong and on and on and on."
So thank God that as much as it seems one party or another is setting God's agenda, He has not relinquished that prerogative to us. It really does not matter what we decide in our back and forth and circular conversations. God will do what God pleases and will continue to make all the definitions.
And God will prune and feed the vine and lead His servants and correct them when necessary and even use us in the process whenever He can trust us to love the sinner like He does.
Yes. I get sick of Christians sometimes - just people with the same personality quirks they would have if they were not Christians - people just as ornery as I am ( or less so because I have a big dose of it).
We get ticked off and opinionated and harsh and then we crash from time to time and ask a lot of questions and then we come back to center - but all the while, our roots are planted in the strong bedrock of God's grace and truth.
I get ticked off and harsh when I perceive people are ticked off and harsh and I judge judgmental people and I am just as human as the rest.
Jesus said He would not feel like spitting us out unless we went lukewarm. He can steer us when we are moving. He can guide us when we are seeking. He can change us when we stay open to change. He can bend us and mold us, and break the resistance of our hearts and He does.
Does Jesus get sick of Christians? When we just don't get it? When we act the same as the folks He was calling to repentance but with Bible verses to justify our rigidity and graceless living?
Maybe, but He doesn't give up. Surprisingly, He loves us passionately and is infinitely patient with us. He uses our crude attempts at service. He includes us in His purpose whether or not we get it.
I have not given up on the church because Jesus has not given up on the church or on me.
The Vinedresser has not retired.
The church has no corner on the market for dogmatism, rigidity, or critical judgments. Humanity is a common "disease" and a common blessing as well.
If I am ever sick of Christians, it is because they are my family and families get on each others nerves from time to time. I really love Christians and other people as well, but Christians are, with all their peccadilloes, my people and God's people.
We are called to be peculiar and even odd.
We are thrown together with our personality issues and commanded to "work it out" with God's help and guidance. We have to struggle and grow in our capacity for relationship. We march to a different drum and, in doing so, we don't flaunt it or push our weight around. That is the plan anyway.
Sometimes it works very well.