You went to be with Jesus 10 years ago.
In honor of a decade of the best 10 years of your existence, I wanted to give you an update on how things have been since you left.
The world is scary. I know you knew that, but I think this might be different.
We have fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, a deadly Pandemic, racial injustice, and suffering that is sometimes incomprehensible. Of course, you were familiar with most of these before you went home, but there is something else, something darker, that has blinded us towards the light.
People created in the image of God have found a way to make anything and everything a subject worth releasing the darkness of their souls. The right hates the left; the left hates the right. Idols have risen to equal or greater status than their first love.
I have given into it myself on occasion. Lord, let it remain in my past!
As I’m writing this to you, I was reminded of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he was instructing Timothy on how to pastor the church in Ephesus,
“… stay in Ephesus, so that you can tell the relevant people not to teach anything different, or to cling on to myths and endless genealogies. That sort of thing breeds disputes rather than the instruction in faith that comes from God. What we aim at in our teaching is the love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3-5)
It seems—even in our churches—our disputes are breeding more disputes, our anger is breeding more anger, and our hate is breeding more hate.
Since you left, things have become much less black and white in our world and in our family. I don’t think it was your strong faith that didn’t allow for much gray, but what we have seen and experienced has forced the gray on us.
Sometimes the gray is beautiful;
Sometimes it deconstructs.
Sometimes it’s overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s confusing.
Sometimes it’s essential to a clearer and stronger faith.
But, there’s compassion available in the gray that the black and white doesn’t always allow. There’s something here where love has an easier way of moving among those who need it.
But, you had love, too. You desperately wanted people to know the love of God that you knew. There was nothing more beautiful than the way you loved the people of Africa. I remember, here and there, you would talk about your desire to take a one-way flight to a persecuted nation until you were martyred or an entire nation was saved.
Your love for Jesus was contagious and genuine.
Dad, I am not finding many here like you anymore. Many pastors and ministers are falling into scandal after scandal. Reports of sexual abuse, narcissistic behavior, greed, and favoritism run rampant in our churches. Many have fallen to the likes of personality cults and violent forms of Christian Nationalism. Many of these people were your and mom’s friends and some were even saved by your ministry.
I no longer recognize the church I grew up in, Dad. I remember moments in these churches when I had experiences with God, and I’m sure some still do, but the ways of Jesus are being lost, day by day.
It is a violent world.
It has become a violent faith.
And the image of a self-sacrificial savior that we are called to imitate no longer stands as an important indicator of faithfulness.
Dad, please pray for a remnant to come forth.
Pray for a people of nonviolent love to lead the church.
Pray for humble people who follow the Beatitudes to come out of the darkness.
Pray for an awakening to rise through the incomparable power of the Holy Spirit.
Whether I look left or right, I see fundamentalism being catapulted into more and more polarization of “us vs. them.” People are very good at loving their tribe well but have not learned how to love those who are, on paper, their enemy. According to Jesus, this is the criteria for being “children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:45)” To put it another way, Jesus is saying that we are not His disciples until we learn how to love our enemies.
Who are my fellow Christians then?
It has become more and more difficult to tell.
Dad, I believe many of the same things that you taught me. But, many beliefs I have left behind. Sometimes I wonder if you would be disappointed in me. Other times I remember that you would be proud. And, as I type this I know you are because I have chosen to wrestle with God, the Scriptures, and His call on His bride, the Ekklesia.
And I will continue to do so until I see you again.
Happy 10 years with Jesus, Dad. I desire to be with you and Jesus, but I must remain in the flesh for mine and others’ progress in the ways of the kingdom.
However, one day, I will see you again.
Love that despairs,
Your son, Matt