Culture

April 16 2013
42

 

Come in close with me for a moment? I’m in a gentle, whispering sort of mood and I have some thoughts to give and questions I would ask all you feelers and thinkers and lovers. My questions are the coffeehouse or fire pit variety, the kind that get asked when we can look through the steam or across the flames and find, above all things, the value-code writ into each other’s faces.

1. Do you think God knew we would interpret the gospel 7 billion different ways before sunrise on Sunday? (My sense is that God knew this was inevitable and They still didn’t build parameters to make sure it didn’t happen.)

2. Do you think They are concerned about interpretation nuances?

3. And do you ever wonder if we were even meant to believe the same things regarding doctrine, theology and the like?

Screen shot 2013-04-10 at 11.14.41 PMSometimes I lay in bed during the night watch and imagine all kinds of people standing behind my eyes. I place them there just so I can look real long into their soul-windows and speak these words over them in the dark: “I see you”. Because what if nobody ever tried to see them before and my looking at them with love is like a prayer going out to cover this essential human need?

So I lay with my physical eyes shut and my spirit-eyes wide open and I see the panorama of skin colors and heights, sizes and shapes. But more importantly I see that everyone is carrying the weight of their own history; an entire world riding piggy on their backs and everyone is fighting their own battles, wearing their own scars, bleeding from their own wounds, pushing through their own struggles. I see we’re all haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts and it’s not just when these eyes are closed. I see that you and you and all of you are bent with your own heaviness, just like I’m doubled over with mine. I see humanity has 7 billion different molecular codes informing their responses, reactions; persuading the spectrum of their emotions. On my left I see the guy who seems whole on the outside, but his soul limps like a zombie, diseased and mostly dead. I see the one in the shadows who perpetuates unspeakable evil and I look at him extra long so I have time to trace his life backward in my mind’s eye and hopefully understand what happened to him, “Who hurt you?” I will always ask. I see the girl who thinks she’s got it all figured out, but she actually don’t know shit. (Sometimes that girl is me.) I see the religious, non-religious; educated, uneducated; rich man, poor man; young man, old man. I see the preposterous, vulgar, timid, boisterous, abused, broken, numb, bloodshot, drunk, diseased, depressed, drugged and dumb. I see sinners, saints, successes, eccentrics, bullies, bullied, straights, gays, clowns, misfits, fools and thieves.

I see a mysterious cocktail of a thousand different characteristics inside the mix of each person.

All this seeing and all these stories and there is one thing I am very certain of: every single one of us still needs saving from something and saving for something. And I believe that Jesus carries within himself the keys to get all the saving done. But here’s the nagging truth: The Spirit only has us humans to work with and the real kicker of it is that we can be a pretty sad lot, even on our best given days. Hallelujah.

So this is what I would love for you to do.


Close your eyes with me a minute and imagine the scope and breadth and depth of humanity – all 7 billion of us with our own history and codes and so forth. And do you imagine when you’re looking at these people standing behind your eyes, that one way of communicating the Gospel message is going to be enough to universally fill the holes inside all humanity? [Don't read: the Gospel isn't enough.] Sometimes I wonder if the difference between how one wo[man] delivers the Gospel vs. how another wo[man] might, could be the difference between a hatchet to the heart, or just a pinprick – depending on all the things informing the hearer.

The Gospel can meet everyone, anytime and anywhere in the midst of whatever their trenched-down mess might be, but I need to allow for the possibility that my gospel might minister to a specific audience that carries certain life narratives. In the same way, John Piper’s nuanced gospel won’t be heard by certain demographics, but will be vastly celebrated by others. On the opposite end of the doctrinal range Rob Bell’s nuanced gospel certainly turns the masses off, but for some it is pure living water and beckons them right to the fountain of Jesus for a drink.

If we’re all living out and carrying the gospel story of how Jesus came into our specific messes and saved our wretched arses, then no matter how differently that gospel comes, our central message is still about this Jesus who came to save us from all the crosses we bear—the crosses within and the crosses without. The broken vehicle by which that central message is expressed will look as wide and varied and clumsy and glorious as each of our stories, eh?

Bearing this in mind, I would ask again: are we even designed to believe and agree on all the nuances of theology and doctrine and so forth? Can God hold within himself each and every one of our contradictions and weave them into harmony [don't read: absence of conflict or controversy] rather then having them be a hindrance to our ministry together? Isn’t that part of the paradox of who God is? That he’s neither this wo[man]-view or that wo[man]-view, but he might squeeze himself into both/and just so he can be near you and you and you because above everything and with all his eyes he sees you? And desires you? And could care less about how you got to him, just so long as you came. In other words: more power to the [nuanced] gospel way that allows him to get close to your heart and you to his because he has already shown you by his birth in a stable and his death between crooks that he will go to any ridiculous length and humiliating measure in his wild pursuit of your heart. Amen.

So, approach life or come to the internet with your ideas and your stories; your pulling and push-backs. We can tango our minds till Kingdom come and it can be so good, but I wonder if we could leave room for the possibility that our gospel convictions aren’t the sum total of any reality or even the exact message someone needs to hear.

 

Note: I am not endorsing the ways in which the Gospel is interpreted and used to validate abuse, manipulation or any other form of human devaluing and degradation.

 

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42 comments

  1. Thought provoking and well said. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Debby, for being here with my heart today.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  2. i love you.

    and amen to a God who goes to “ridiculous lengths and humiliating measures in his wild pursuit of MY heart.” we would not stand a chance–not even a ONE of us, without that pursuit.

    i am felled with gratitude.

    Steph

    Reply
    • Thank you for this, Steph. And for your email this morning. You never cease to bolster, lift and encourage – i.e. you make me feel like I should keep on, one foot in front of the other, you have been the best traveling companion.

      I love you more,
      Erika

      Reply
  3. So glad you added the note at the end, because my bent-over bedraggled and self-inflicted woundedness is in part the result of the spiritual abuse I suffered.. Thank you. I, too, have given up trying to figure out how They planned it and what a better method might have looked like… there isn’t one. Duh. God loves me. He provided just what I needed when I was ready. Period.

    Provocative and sensitive. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Heidi –

      I am humbled and honored that you would share a wee bit of life here with my heart today. We’re all a little bent-over and bedraggled, so know that you’re not alone, sister.

      Love to you,
      Erika

      Reply
  4. Kim

    Wow, Erika….that was so beautiful and it so expresses the journey my heart has been on lately. Thank you :)

    Reply
    • Glad to offer some resonate thoughts, Kim. Thank you for telling me . . . I am encouraged.

      Much Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  5. Thank you for pointing out that John Piper AND Rob Bell can lead people to seek Jesus. Jeesh – the arguing going on in “Christian community” gives me a headache! This is a post to which I will refer again and again.

    Reply
    • Thank you much, Andee. Blessed to have you with my heart this morning. :)

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  6. Really thought provoking post. I’ll be savoring this one for awhile.

    Reply
  7. First, I absolutely believe that God is bigger than our understanding of Him. I also believe that Theology is beyond important. Paul spent much of his writing articulating the gospel, articulating Theology, so that the early churches would 1) Be able to live in holiness, and 2) Be able to discern false teachers and expose them. Among many other reasons.

    So, there is an extent to which all Christians have to believe the same things in order to actually be Christians. We see this over and over in Church history. The only difference now is that it’s happening over blogs and social media instead of in councils behind closed doors or well-thought letters between those who disagree…whether that’s a good thing or not has yet to be seen. Even if some were publicly debated, it wasn’t near the firestorm that issues cause now because the audience wasn’t universal.

    I absolutely have faith that God can use even the staunchest of atheists to bring someone to Christ, but that doesn’t make that person right in their beliefs. So, when we look at the Piper and Bell scenario, the former may have nuances that press against our Americanized sensibilities about free will but is still within Christian orthodoxy, while the latter steps out of orthodoxy by effectively denying hell. I don’t question whether he can lead people to Jesus, because the Spirit draws people unto Himself through all of us despite who we are. So, it isn’t really Bell leading after all. Nor is it Piper, or Chandler, or Driscoll.

    Now, I don’t want to start the “is Rob Bell a heretic?” argument here – it’s not the time or the place, and I think we’re all tired of it anyway. But what we have to realize is that for two millenia, Christians have universally accepted that there are basic beliefs that one must confess to fall within orthodoxy (though perhaps not Christianity? I don’t know…). While I absolutely agree that there are some things we just let go – I’m a Calvinist and my best friend is the young adult pastor at an Assemblies of God church, there are also some things worth defending. And those things, those things should not be sacrificed on the altar of peace, but should be defended. Defended well, both in content and in tone and heart (Gal. 6:1), but defended nonetheless.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Don –

      Though we disagree on some points, I am really grateful for your thoughtful and heartfelt response. Thank you so much for continually sharing space here with us.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
    • Christine

      Amen, brother. Truth in love, the Bible says. It’s a hard balancing act, but “love” that ignores truth isn’t love at all. If we change who Jesus is, we have no Savior. If we deny His death and resurrection, we have no hope. Watching someone wander that path and not calling them to truth would be cruel. And where to draw the line is hard. If we deny what He saved us from, we minimize His sacrifice. We still have a gracious Redeemer. But we cannot unify around something wherein God’s clear Word is denied.

      Paul was grateful that the Gospel was preached, however it was preached (Phil 1:15-18). But He also warned against any other Gospel.

      Eph 4 talks about unity of the Spirit. One faith. We have to have some measure of common faith. Not that we don’t love those who disagree, but where man contradicts God, we cannot help but side with God. Romans 3:4 – Let God be true and every man a liar. Cling to Truth in love. Defend with humility and grace. God gave us His word so that we may know truth. We can all embrace different parts of it. The Holy Spirit’s comfort may be most dear to one and the Father’s righteousness most precious to another, but it must be truth we unify around.

      Reply
      • The only thing I can say to that is: Why aren’t you blogging?

        Reply
        • I’m thinking about it.

          I did before.

          We’ll see if the Lord directs me where to start again.

          Reply
  8. Rachel Canella

    Erika,

    I look forward to your writing and savor each piece like I would a savory feast–morsel by morsel. Sometimes I want to only read in doses because I don’t want it to end!

    This post resonates with me, a prodigal girl who has worked hard to loosen the shackles of shame in a very beaten down story.

    When I read “I see a mysterious cocktail of a thousand different characteristics inside the mix of each person, I couldn’t help but think of what I meditated over yesterday in thinking of our dear brother Brennan Manning’s passing to His Abba’s arms, “…help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it.”

    Indeed.

    Much love, sister.

    Rachel

    Reply
    • You do my heart so much good this morning, Rachel. I was right in the middle of writing this post the other day when you emailed me out of the blue . . . I couldn’t even organize my heart and thoughts until you said, “He lives and breathes in you”. Something really powerful came after that and I finished the post in 30 minutes. True story.

      Thank YOU for being a necessary part of this, sister. I’m so glad we met at Blissdom.

      Love you,
      Erika

      Reply
  9. dan mcm

    Nice post, Erika.

    Makes me think of something Paul said – ‘to the Jews, I am a Jew, to the gentiles….. I become all things so that I might win some….”

    If God called Paul to use different approaches to reach different people, why should it surprise us that God uses different messages and styles to reach different people?

    Another commenter (Don) mentioned that theology is very important, and I agree. But, I think one of the primary reasons that “good” theology is better than “bad” theology is that good theology does a better job of increasing our understanding, where bad theology hinders it. Sort of like having better tools helps you build a better work product, but it doesn’t mean the lesser product gets thrown in the garbage.

    Good post…. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Erika

      Dan –

      Thank you for your analogy of “good” and “bad” theology – very helpful distinction! “Bad” theology is the reason I had to make a “note” at the end of this post! :)

      I appreciate you being here, brother.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  10. Erika, thank you. Leaving some room, to wiggle or dance or whatever…I say ‘amen.’

    Reply
    • Erika

      Skip or hopscotch or trot or moonwalk . . . I say ‘amen’ too. Thank you, John.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  11. wow wow wow.
    thank you for putting words on truths that never make it to my lips. your bravery and lucidity blesses the whole dang Body.

    Reply
    • Erika

      And you bless my whole dang body today, Kelli. I am humbled and honored that these thoughts resonated with your heart. Thank you for being here and telling me.

      Love to you, sister.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  12. Kevin Krueger

    Thanks for writing Erika! Over the past year or so, I’ve periodically been thinking about how rarely we extend Paul’s “Body of Christ” analogy across denominational/doctrinal/theological lines. Every sermon I can remember on the topic emphasizes unity within individual congregations, and yet there is such a rich diversity of belief and practice in the global and historical church. Let us not waste these precious resources on account of subtle self-centeredness!

    Reply
    • Erika

      Kevin!

      It really puts a smile right on my face when someone from my growing-up-days spends time in my NOW-days. :)

      Thank you so much. I’m happy this spoke to your own processes and thoughts. :)

      Take care, brother.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  13. Wowee!! Somebody said it! And said it well! I’m glad it was you!

    God IS much more excited about the fact that we came close to Him instead of worrying about the doctrine that may have brought us there. And there is absolutely no way all 2 billion followers of Christ can have the exact same doctrine. But we can have the same depth of relationship with the Lord, and we can love one another (which is the way we should be known anyway). I know that you and I don’t agree on every jot and tittle, Erika, but I absolutely love you as my sister in Christ and am so blessed and inspired by you.

    Love!

    Reply
    • Erika

      Ahhh!!! Thank you so much, Sarah!!! :) Don’t be surprised if I start using “jot” and “tittle” . . . ;)

      Love you, lady!

      Erika

      Reply
  14. Sarah

    Thank you so much for this. Sometimes all the questions leave me tired and all I know is that Jesus rescued me from me. That’s enough. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Erika

      It’s enough for me too, Sarah. Bless you, friend. <3 <3 <3

      Much Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  15. Erica Camacho

    Hi my online friend who so blesses me with beautiful thoughts, images full of heart and wonder, i just love all you share with us. I love what Dan said about Paul’s approach to reach ppl with the gospel. I have been pondering this all day! Sometimes I think our problem is trying so badly to entirely interpret every nook and cranny of the gospel…our human brains, we want to fill in all the blanks and make sense of everything when in reality we just can’t fully know all things. Then when we think we have something figured out we try to shove it down everyone else’s throats only to be regurgitated without any real meaning or understanding. Personally, I sometimes feel as though God is holding His head in His hands waiting for the Church to remember that little thing called love. The gospel IS Love. The gospel is Hope. The gospel is Mercy. This is where so many Christians get it twisted…we have people who call themselves followers of Christ threatening & picketing & rioting & bashing. The gospel becomes the burden of law and condemnation rather than the freedom of a grace that takes us from glory to glory with the Creator Himself. The more I seek Jesus the more i realize I just need to be available and willing to heed His voice and call on my life. The more I need to be a representation of His overwhelming & pretty irrational love. When we are moved by the Spirit, we are moved by His love for people, and that is really the heart of the gospel. Being in tune with the Spirit allows us to see as He sees and to walk in His wisdom and guidance to know that just right thing to say or do to reach right into the heart and soul of a person so they know the God of ALL has His eyes on them and cares so very much for them regardless of what the world thinks or what they think (or don’t think) of themselves. Who cares about this or that interpretation if they don’t know Jesus. Love, however which way it is needed, love and love and love until the light breaks through…then truth can be received through the revelation of the Spirit according to His word. Thanks Erika, for stirring my heart today!

    Reply
    • Erika

      Erica, darling –

      Amen, I tell you. Amen to all that you said, but especially to this: ” . . . love and love and love until the light breaks through . . . ” Beautiful. Thank you so much for ruminating today and sharing your gorgeous heart with me.

      I love you truly.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  16. This post of yours is fresh air. I remember wondering the same things as an eight-year-old in the produce aisle of Kroger. I had already been to enough churches by that point in my life to know that different Christians mapped their theology in vastly different paths to God, but I had also been told that our way was the only way, and what if everyone who didn’t attend our church was doomed to hell for believing wrongly? Or even worse, what if we had the wrong “only way?”

    Now, my own eight-year-old daughter comes home from school talking about how her friends supplicate to the saints, and I tell her what you explained so beautifully around your digital fire pit here–that God meets us all in our different ways of interacting with him. I encourage my girls to think deeply but not to make theology the point; not a one of us is going to see everything clearly until the dim mirror blocking us from eternity is pulled away, but God is here anyway.

    Love you.

    Reply
    • Erika

      I was praying this morning for that dim mirror to be pulled back just a little bit today, because I so badly needed to see a little better . . . Related: glad we can be some air for each other in the meantime because it helps me see that God is here anyway.

      To the moon, my friend. To the moon, Ioveth you.

      E

      Reply
  17. Melissa Greene

    I love this Erika and I wholeheartedly agree. God must be big enough to create such a beautifully diverse world and then reach it on it’s own terms, so to speak. I just spent a week in prison’s reminding men that they are loved and still have a seat in the kingdom. I’ve received much pushback on my “ministry” but I know what I am called to and it’s ok (now) if they are not. best to you.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Thank you, Melissa. I’m so glad to find resonate hearts . . . makes me feel like I’m not crazy! :) Bless you, friend, for all the Kingdom things you do.

      MUCH love,
      Erika

      Reply
  18. I just love this so much. I crave your beautiful perspective more and more with each thing you write. I’ve been searching for years now for that “feeling” to return to my spirit. The one where I KNOW He loves me. That He even likes me. That He really wants me. and that He’s chosen and paid for me. This made me feel it for just a split second, and that gives me hope that there’s more where that came from. It was the phrase “just so He can be near you.” It’s bringing tears to my eyes right now just thinking that He might really just want to be near me.

    Also, this: [In other words: more power to the [nuanced] gospel way that allows him to get close to your heart and you to his because he has already shown you by his birth in a stable and his death between crooks that he will go to any ridiculous length and humiliating measure in his wild pursuit of your heart. Amen.]
    yes. Amen.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Oh, Kelley . . . I am deeply humbled that you would find life here; that there would be just a little spark lit inside your heart. It is enough sometimes to keep on keeping on. Bless you, darlin’/sister/friend. And thank you.

      Much Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  19. Katie

    I just happened to see this on facebook after a friend posted. I loved it. But then again, I am the one that gets caught up in verbose language and love when words delicately fall across the page the way this entry was written. lovelovelove! Thank you for sharing your heart today.

    Reply

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