I often feel like people have resented my faith, because in their minds, it is as though the earthly part of me died. As if I stopped enjoying the rhythms of hip hop, or hunting down weird bugs, or chipping off my finger nail polish, or loving popsicles. Because of the stigma attached to my faith, the best parts of me supposedly died when I accepted Jesus. Apart from even how painful it is for past friends to ignore the parts of me that will always remain and attach the portions of my faith, I wish that the critics even had a clue what the fullness of Jesus means, and all the things that have never felt right without him. It’s baffling, because nearly everything stuck with me into faith, but people who think I’ve somehow transformed into a bible beating, violently extremist sack of ideology didn’t even notice that part. They don’t understand the fullness that God’s Holy Spirit gives me to enjoy what all is beauty and all that he made beautiful. When I’m not alone (in Christ), I can bear even more realness. But it is as though thr world expects beauty to be a party favor, produced and extinguished by it’s own making and unsatisfied enjoyment. There are so many layers that only recieve fullness in Jesus. It is not within my power to make you understand.
Peace. Compassion. Care. That is what should come to mind when you say the word “Christian”. “Let others have reason to condemn you for what you approve” makes me take pause and wonder. Even if it has stuck unfairly, so many people associate the church with what Christ has sought to destroy.
In my home state of Kansas, we have many people who actually might engage you on ideological grounds, but far more wont. In my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, we have a lot of political activism and local support for a variety of different ideals. Spray painted on our streets with black paint and the profile of a slug is the slogan, “Keep Lawrence weird”, mostly because at a population of almost 100,000 , we do mostly get along. We argue over politics, but we also have a supersized public library, a newly renovated homeless shelter, services for homeless families run out of the church, a coalition of churches seeking local justice solutions about poverty and the lack of affordable housing (called “Justice Matters”), a strong public schools system, a city council that is fairly invested, Haskell Indian Nations University, some of the best local food and music you can find out of the entire Midwest, and a rich abolitionist history (google the word “Jayhawker”). It’s not perfect, but still. A lot of wacky people. Suburbs and the North Lawrence hippies. Derpy kids at the Lawrence Arts Center putting on a yearly rendition of “The Nutcracker” every year near Christmas. My city is in many ways a mirror of the biodiversity of the prairie, and the diversity of the body of Christ. We are better for it, and by the grace of God, we still disagree.
Even if I don’t know for sure what I believe about every potentially Christian hot button issue, I know in my heart we are called to be family. Even if we don’t know how to resolve our differences, if Christ is our guide, he will lead us out of it. If we respond with vanity for vanity, what good will that do?
Just because something is easier said that done doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, then by the grace of God we can do the hardest thing, which is to love each other. Even if that means thinking one another is wrong. Even if that means being less invested in whether or not we are right. Even if it’s a process. Even if it takes years. Like the resiliency of one’s physical body, the Body of Christ will endure. It is entirely possible to love one another, even as we address the doubt.