Tag Archives: Christian

I should have been a black girl . . .

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I once had a boss tell me “We love you and we’re so glad you’re on our team.  But our ideal candidate was someone with your skills and abilities, who was also a black woman with XYZ in their background.”  Instead they got me — a girl so white my friends in high school teased that I was Casper the Friendly Ghost on a trip to Florida.  They chose me, and they were happy to have me, but the point is they were intentionally looking for diversity.

There are a lot of people that don’t like the idea of affirmative action.  To them it feels like discrimination, an unfair advantage, or bias.  In their eyes affirmative action is a rejection of the skills, gifts, and abilities of people in the majority group.  I respect these people.  I understand where they’re coming from.  But I don’t agree.

Diversity doesn’t happen by chance.

Want proof?  Go visit any large city and take a drive through the different neighborhoods and boroughs.  Go visit some schools in the inner city and then drive out to the suburbs.  Pay attention to who’s sitting at which lunch tables.  Try out a few different hair salons.  Or better yet . . . go visit any church on an average Sunday morning.

We live in a very segregated world.  A world that seems to only be capable of defining ourselves by defining who is other.  I know I am A: not B, C, D or E.  Don’t believe me?  I challenge you to go  have an honest conversation with someone who is trying to live as an “AND” in an “either/or” world.  A biracial teen.  An adult who grew up in one country and now lives in another.  An LGBT Christian.  A Liberal Christian.  The list could go on and on.  There is a tension that exists in their life.  We are a world that likes to categorize and define and put things in boxes.  And we like to keep those boxes separate.  We do it without thinking.  We divide people by race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, age, education level, religious background, political affiliation, and more.  Some areas are more natural to us than others, but we still do it.  This is what comes naturally to us.  (This, in my opinion, is one of the consequences of the fall.)

So wherever we find diversity we should celebrate it.  And we should realize it didn’t come about by chance, but by choice.  Someone — some leader or group of people — decided that diversity was valuable enough to work for it.  To take risks and make changes.  To set goals and take steps to make them a reality.  And some days they don’t make progress, but they don’t give up.  (Some days you hire the pasty white girl, but you keep looking for that amazing black woman also.)

I have spent most of my adult life working in churches.  One of the things we talk about is that when people come into a church for the first time they will look around and ask “Is there anyone here who is like me?”  This doesn’t just apply to race and gender, but  to whatever it is that we have defined ourselves as.  And one of the first places we will look to answer that question is the platform–who’s on stage or listed on the website.  We’re looking for an answer because we don’t want to be an other.  We are all born with an innate desire to belong.  If we want to be a church where everyone feels comfortable, then we must be a place where everyone can answer that question with a confident “Yes!  I’m not alone!”

This week the denomination that I am ordained in is making some very important decisions regarding the future leadership of the church.  These decisions are always tough because there are so many amazingly qualified potential leaders.  It is my prayer that as decisions are made, those voting will remember the value and beauty of diversity.   Diversity of thoughts and perspectives, ethnicities and genders, ages and backgrounds, talents and skills.

And as I pray this, I also pray . . . not my will but yours be done.

Are you really a Christian?

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Have you ever noticed what a wide variety of factors we consider when determining if a person is “really a Christian?”  I’ve been in professional ministry for about a decade and I could almost write another 613 laws based on some of the stipulations I’ve heard.

Are you really a Christian?  I’ve been told you’re not a *real* Christian if . . .

  • you’re a Democrat
  • you’re a Republican
  • you don’t home school your kids
  • you home school your kids
  • you’re a working mom
  • you’re a stay-at-home dad
  • you believe in gay marriage
  • you don’t believe in gay marriage
  • you believe in a pre-millenial rapture
  • you believe in a post-millenial rapture
  • you work on Sundays
  • you’re business is open on Sundays
  • you drink alcohol
  • you never drink alcohol
  • you can’t remember the date you choose to follow Jesus
  • you don’t picket outside family planning clinics
  • you do picket outside family planning clinics

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  We all have this picture (whether we want to admit it or not) of what a Christian looks like, acts like, and believes.  And most of the time our picture addresses things that go far beyond the questions of  “Do you believe in Jesus?  Did you seek forgiveness for your sins?  Do you choose to follow God?”

And all that has me wondering . . . when people who don’t consider themselves Christians look at us, what factors do they use to determine who is and who isn’t Christian?  Are they asking us questions about our belief systems or are they judging based on who “goes to church?”  Are they evaluating our behaviors and moral boundaries or are they examining our political and social beliefs?

Or, what if Jesus actually knew what he was talking about when he said: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Try to forget that you’ve ever heard that verse before.  Try to forget the watered-down definition of love that our culture has come to believe in.  Try to forget everything you’ve come to assume is what defines you as a Christian.  What if the only way for people to know that we have anything to do with the God-man we call Jesus Christ, is if we love each other?  With the kind of radical, deep-running, lay-down-your-life kind of love that I believe Jesus was talking about.

If that was the measuring stick of our Christianity, what would people on the “outside” think of us on the “inside?”  Would they see us as Christians when they looked in our churches, our homes, our offices, and our ministries?  Would they see a radical love between all those people gathered in an auditorium on Sunday morning?  Would they see a deep love if they visited our church board meetings?  Would they see an edifying  love if they walked through our offices?  Would they see a self-sacrificing love if they hung out with us in our family room?

What if, radical as this may be, what if God looked at us the same way?  What if he was a lot less concerned with our political party or our views on end-times than he was with how we loved each other.  It’s a freeing proposition–that I don’t have to end up on the right side of the debate or have all the correct answers.  But it’s also a terrifying thought.  Because loving people–the way I believe God wants us to love people–isn’t easy.  It isn’t easy to love the person you can’t agree with.  It’s even harder to love the person who hurt you.  And we do that in the church . . . a lot.  We hurt people.  We don’t mean to, but we do.  We’re not God, we’re messed up humans and we make mistakes.

The question is, is it even possible to live with that kind of radical love?  To love the family member who broke your heart?  To love the person on the other side of the aisle who betrayed your trust?  To love the congregation down the street whose beliefs don’t line up with yours?  To love the coworker who drives you crazy?  Is that kind of love really possible here on earth?  Is that thing we call the “Kingdom of Heaven” ever going to be realized in this world, or is it only possible when Jesus returns?

I’ll tell you what a wise man once told me:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is not a pipe dream.” 

Maybe we’ll never perfect that Kingdom reality in this lifetime.  Maybe our love will never be that complete.  But I’d love to see us try.