And here’s why. I’m crying because we ignore the words of Jesus. We read them, we understand them and then we simply ignore them. I’m especially broken over why we ignore Jesus’ words in John 13 – “Love one another as I have loved you and the world will know you are with Me” and then John 17 – “Father, I’m praying that all My followers would be one…that the world may believe that You sent me.”
These words are some of His last words, some of His dying words – words spoken and prayed that express His deepest hopes and desires for His people. These words aren’t sidebar – they are core. They are words that say so starkly, so clearly, that if we would simply love one another enough to stay together as one body, one community, and one family – that the world would stop having doubts about who Jesus is and where He comes from. They would know that Jesus is the One who is sent from God. They would also have no doubts any longer about what the church really is – it’s just a group of folks who are sold out to Him. They might not believe in Him. They might not join us. But they would know.
But I get a mailing the other day from a Christian organization that wants me to donate money so that they can build an exact replica of Noah’s ark because that’s how the world is going to come to Christ. The appeal is clear: this group believes that unbelievers will see this ark replica and then believe in Jesus. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Oh yeah, I know what Jesus says in John 13 and John 17 – but actually, what’s more important is that we build this ark.” In other words, “Screw what Jesus says. We know better.” And that makes me weep.
And the fact that we put more into our church Easter Pageants than we do working on what keeps the white church and the black church separated – that makes me weep. And the fact that we keep thinking that if we can simply “speak” the gospel on enough streets and on enough beaches and in enough tents of revival that everyone will come to Jesus when Jesus Himself clearly says that the plan is for the non-believing world to see Him in the love that heals our deepest divisions and wounds. Implication – if they see His healing self in our healed churches, they will want His healing and they will want Him. Because everyone wants love, everyone wants to be healed. But we can’t see it. We won’t see it. We don’t or we won’t do anything about it. And I can’t stop crying.
Of course, it’s hard to display Jesus like this because it takes love – the kind of love that serves and bleeds for “the other” and expects nothing in return and perseveres no matter what. It’s so hard that unless the deep love of Jesus Himself is first in us – it’s impossible for us to love others enough to come together. We will stay black churches and white churches, Latino churches and Asian churches, rich churches and poor churches – culture will continue to trump Jesus and we will keep on nickel and diming the Kingdom and a few people, maybe even a few thousand people will believe. But Jesus said if we would obey Him – and do the loving, bleeding, sweating work to be one body – that the entire world would see and know that He is the Christ. But we won’t listen. And it makes me weep.
I was speaking this truth to a group of 150 of my brothers in Indiana yesterday and I got choked up in the middle of the talk – one minute I was passionately proclaiming the power and intent of the cross to heal us and bring us together and the next minute I couldn’t say anything at all. I wasn’t sure why. But yesterday on the way home I got choked up again in the car. And then, this morning, praying on the phone with a brother pastor – I sobbed some more. I couldn’t figure out what was going on but I think now I know. It’s because we won’t listen to the words of Jesus. We won’t submit. We won’t bow. We continue to be content with homogenous – from hell – Christianity. We continue to be ok with being little Christian clubs with cute Christian slogans and labels, all dressing alike and singing our favorite songs and mirroring to one another how wonderful we are in our enclaves of “sameness”. We won’t do the work of bringing Jew and Greek, barbarian, Scythian, male and female, slave and free together in Jesus. We won’t surrender to Christ being all and in all. We continue to let culture trump our Savior and His work on the cross. We won’t listen to each other’s stories and feel each other’s pain and understand each other’s journeys. That would take too much of a kind of love we apparently don’t yet experience.
So we continue to do our evangelism ditties and build replicas of arks and pat ourselves on the back for the few who come to Christ – while black men get shot, Baltimore burns, gender wars continue, rich and poor stay separate – and we pontificate about what a pity it all is and how we can’t wait for Jesus to return and deliver us. But Jesus doesn’t want to just deliver us then – He wants to heal us now. And He has clearly shown us the way. But we won’t listen. And that’s the reason I can’t stop crying.