For most of my adult life, I’ve never felt like I fit squarely into the American church. My stance on political issues is always too liberal to fit neatly with that crowd. I struggle mightily with evangelism, legalism and the American church’s definition of patriotism. Plus, I cuss like a trucker which is both not very “Christian,” or ladylike.
Yet, for my entire life, I have been a follower of Christ. My faith and my relationship with God is an objective fact. I believe the teachings of Christ and I want to be more like Him. Because the Christian church is an inextricable part of that, and because I live in the United States, navigating that tenuous relationship with the American church is a part of my life.
This past week, I have been wrought with sorrow. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, that I feel ashamed of the actions of people who claim to believe what I believe as they do terrible things in the name of our seemingly shared faith. That’s an old, old story. But, when I survey the amassed damage to our nation, to its people, I feel angry and heartbroken. I long to divorce myself from anyone who would knowingly and willfully bring so much evil into the world.
When I was growing up in church youth group, the “cool” thing to do was to wear woven bracelets that spelled out “WWJD” — “What Would Jesus Do.” I’ve thought a lot this week, in particular, about what Jesus would do right now if he were living in our nation during these days.
I think Jesus would repent on behalf of his brothers and sisters. Repentance is a word that means asking for forgiveness and turning away from the behavior for good. When I think of repentance, I picture someone lying prostrate at the feet of those who they’ve wronged, weeping for forgiveness with a changed heart.
I think Jesus would speak hard truths boldly, regardless of whether people agreed or liked them very much. Throughout Jesus’ life, he sought out the oppressed and marginalized to befriend them, to love them, to advocate for them and to choose them as the people who would bring forth his Kingdom. He was known for taking the leaders of his faith to task for their self-serving theologies and practices. And, he didn’t back down from those hard truths, even to the point of death.
I think Jesus would seek out those who were hurting on all sides and be their comforter. Being like Jesus in our culture looks far more like loving people we disagree with and showing them compassion when they feel hurt or afraid than shutting them down with snarky clapbacks on Twitter or sharply educated replies on Facebook comment threads.
People are incredibly complex. Within every belief system, every lifestyle and every political group, there are human beings who make both good and bad choices. There are people who can at once be incredibly important, loving and wise mentors in our lives in one season and hold and act upon beliefs we deeply oppose in another.
People are paradoxes in this ever-changing journey of life. When we categorize them neatly into buckets of “good” and “bad,” we do ourselves a disservice, stripping away the intricate beauty of their complex humanity for the sake of our comfort in simplicity. Perhaps if we can begin to open ourselves up to sitting with the tension of “both/and,” rather than “either/or,” we can live in a world where this beautiful spectrum of humans can coexist peacefully and embrace our differences.