A few nights ago I got a text from a friend letting me know that one of my posts on this blog had been picked up and criticized by a few other much-more popular blogs. I knew immediately which post he was talking about.
Considering the sources of the criticism, I intended to ignore it. These sorts of websites (I’ll spare you from the links) exist to pick fights and to confirm their readers in their own certainty. Interacting with them does nothing but stir the pot and validate their narrative. But, I need to write a follow-up because some people wrote some pretty incendiary things about me, and by extension, about you. I really love you guys and Jesus does too and I think he’d want me to speak up for you.
The main point of my blog post was to say, on the heels of a controversial Supreme Court ruling, that Intown is intentionally seeking to be a place where people do not have to walk in lock-step politically. We invite all people to belong, regardless of their political affiliation or lack thereof.
We don’t demand that any attendee adhere to certain views, or even particular interpretations of scripture on “hot button” issues before they participate in the life of our church. In fact, if we’re doing ministry in Portland, which is decidedly non-Christian, politically “blue”, and completely supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians, and these people are actually showing up at Intown on Sunday. Isn’t that something to be celebrated?!
I thought so, but some people disagree.
There are many Christians with an online presence who live cocked and ready, on the lookout for someone to say something they disagree with and then they pounce. This sort of knee-jerk criticism has little tolerance for nuance, context, complexity, or dare I say, grace. After reading pages worth of “if/then” connections, interpretations of my motives, prognostications of what I really believed, and so on, even I didn’t like me very much!
Just kidding, but I did have to talk to Jesus. And he told me that he and I were okay, and that we could still be friends.
In fact, at times I probably do resemble some of the names these people were calling me but Jesus still calls me his. He says that he sings and dances over me.
And as my former professor Steve Brown says, “He told me to tell you that too.”
Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it amazing that when someone says something terrible about us, instead falling to pieces we can say, “you don’t know the half of it!” and move on? And isn’t it incredible that we don’t have to live by a narrative of fear, or decline, or scarcity but can instead live knowing that Jesus has conquered the world (including the world inside of us) and that we can live into his victory?
That’s the thing that we want on our “front door”, not condemnations of this or that sin (the world has heard enough of this and they’ve moved on). What I want us to lead with is “come, the door is open to you.” Any and all kinds of sinners are welcome at Intown because frankly sinners are the only people who have kept the church “in business" for 2000 years.
Does it get messy at times? You bet. Does the gospel compel us all to address our sin patterns and get help to change? By all means. But, the dark stain of sin runs through all of us, not just people “out there”, with sins we don’t happen to share. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get close-up to our sins, and that should give us the courage, no, the calling to get close up to other people’s - close up in friendship and care, not in judgment.
We’re all in process, including me. And, at times I’m sure I’ve pushed Intown too hard to consider the needs of the outsider while not equally leading us to care for one another and grow together in overall maturity. Sometimes I’ve been too much of a prophet and not enough of a priest. And, sometimes I write things that aren’t 100% clear. This is true of the blog post in question, and I’m sure that it will be true of blog posts (and sermons) in the future.
While I don't feel any need whatsoever to clarify or explain my post for those outside of our church and Presbytery who seemed determined read it in the worst possible light, I am happy to clarify any questions that it brought up for you. Feel free to email me or we can meet up for a cup of coffee. Some of you were confused by my Romans 14 analogy, or simply thought I could have explained it better so I'll try to write a clarification about that soon.
In the meantime, you should know that I was trying to celebrate our ethos and that people of all sorts and stripes seem to feel safe and are encountering Jesus at Intown; I was not using the blog to announce any official change in policy or practice.
Dear friends, I love you. More than any other church I’ve ever been a part of, I can’t wait to show up on Sunday morning. It’s inevitable that some of you will disagree with some of the things I say in print or in person. That’s cool; I’d be much more concerned if you didn’t. (If I ever offer you Kool-Aid, don’t drink it!!)
Let’s keep pressing into Jesus as well as into each other. The story we’re living has a really great ending!
See You Sunday,