About six weeks ago I went to church with my friend and coworker, Jess. We decided that we would do a church-swap of sorts, in which one Sunday I went to church with her and her family, and another she and her family will come to church with me.
When I first started seeking out a church community to be a part of, I tried multiple churches and eventually settled at one that was much like the church I attend now in the way it functions. However, my friend and I, both in our teens, were never reached out to except for by one member of the Welcome Team who sat in front of us each week. Six or so months later, I encountered a subject, on Easter morning, within the sermon that I did not feel fit my beliefs, and I never went back. Since then I have regularly attended two churches: the first, a United church, which remains supportive of rights of people who are part of the LGBTQ[addadditionallettersasyouseefit] community, and loving them for who God created them to be [yes, I am of the thought that a person’s sexual orientation is as inborn as their hair colour, and that it is not a choice], which I left because at the time I did not feel like there was a place for myself as a young person in the community. The second is my current church, who present such touchy issues of homosexuality and abortion in a facts-based setting, but leave the table open for exploring your own beliefs, and I really respect this approach.
These subjects are difficult for people, especially, it seems, in a faith-based situation, to talk about. Additionally, these discussion can get very emotionally heated, especially when intermingled with the topic of God, which people typically have a very strong position regarding . . . regardless of it is a belief in God or not. Stories, personal accounts, interactions . . . it is obvious that we all have a very vested interest in our own stories and relationships. Thus, relationship with another human, whether intimate or friendship, can often be a touchy subject when those we also care about are concerned about certain aspects of that person’s life–faith, religion, sexual orientation, past choices . . . the list goes on.
If we are, for example, believers in God, I’ve found this is often a very touchy subject. As a Christian who was not raised a Christian, I think I see this a bit more than the average person. I do not think there is anything wrong with not believing in God, but at the same time, I still hope for everybody to experience the love that is Jesus. it is a tough line, and I choose to simply follow Jesus in my approach . . . love. Additionally, with many of the above splaying out from what Christian society has told us is good or bad, right or wrong, and how it tries to paint the picture in black and white in a world of colour. Often, though, this colour comes out in our stories–our teachings, our stories, our tears.
During the church-swap, Jess had warned me that a guest pastor was speaking for the past several weeks, and that he was pretty infused with passion for Jesus. So much so, that whenever he talked about how much Jesus loves us, he cried. Every single time. And while I at the same moments can recollect and often feel the same passion rising within me towards my God, it is of my belief that if you are in the position to be teaching others about the love of Jesus, especially potential new believers OR people who are simply exploring who Jesus is, you need to be able to communicate your passion in a way that educates with a limited emotional attachment. YES, passion and excitement is good, but for instance, if you are counselling an individual and simply reminding them that God loves them [which is essentially what one is doing on a less one-on-one level during a sermon], then you need to be able to step back. Passion is essential in some contexts, but when you are teaching others of a touchy subject, for instance, or presenting potential applications and/or the choices that an individual can make, your story remains your story, and as fuelled as you like it . . . but your point should come with no strings attached, no vested interest, and an ample dose of what you wish to deliver in a fact-based package. Much like the delivery of stance on homosexuality was delivered at my home church.
I was reminded of this scenario when I was reading Jenny Simmons’ blog tonight, in which she writes about speaking to a camp group of some very tough kids in very dark places. On speaking to these kids about Jesus, and His love for them.
I refuse to manipulate on behalf of God. He does not need me to twist anyone’s arm. He does not need tears and lame promises to make Himself known. He is God. To emotionally intimidate people into knowing Him is a terrible offense.
–Jenny Simmons in What if They Were Angels
I fully believe this. I believe that God, from the beginning, has been in the position of ultimate transformation on both a global and individual level. I believe that He finds a way to stir in all of us, at different points in our lives, but that He gives us the will to determine how we respond to this.
That we don’t need cheap rewards and incentive for inviting Him into our journeys.
That it is not up for us to try and manipulate others with our words or our emotions, because He is more than capable.
That He simply loves us where we are at with open arms for when we are ready.
That nothing is ever final enough to divide us from Him.