I have been told by my counselor (or 2 or 3...) that I have strong justice issues. That I see things very black and white and have no room for gray for why people might do certain things that I am convinced are black and white wrong. This last year, God has done an amazing work of transformation in my mind that has led to much regeneration of my heart.
One year ago I sat in church for Easter Sunday disgusted. I vowed never to go to church on Easter Sunday again. I was embarrassed by our sense of selves in the church on this day-the day to rejoice more than any other day. The day we tout as the biggest outreach opportunity of the year, second maybe only to Christmas. We talk a big talk about the need to impress those "new" people who might come through our doors. We talk about how many may come and hear about Jesus for the first time and yet we really are just trying to disguise our desire for a big flashy program featuring ourselves. I figured that if all of the church people really thought outreach was about show and performance before ourselves and the few who may visit the church who actually have never before heard the gospel, then that was no place for me. To me, outreach necessitates motion, movement, an outward expression. It was all quite clear to me. People in the church didn't "get it." So I would not participate in something that man-centered again. After all, on the Sunday each year we celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior our joy should be so radiating we need to go out and spread Jesus with those who never will darken the doorway of the church. So that was my plan-forgo church the next (this) year and be involved with true outreach instead.
Then this year happened. As we looked forward to Easter I couldn't figure out what to do. As I asked around about outreach opportunity in my own community I kept falling short. And in the midst of all this, God kept drawing my heart more and more to the church, His church, his bride. The passion and compassion God had given me for the lost the past few years in youth work began to invade my feelings toward the people who attend church week after week but aren't really living the abundant, free, joyful life Jesus told us about. So I started seeking the Lord about what to do about Easter Sunday. We ended up spending the weekend with some dear friends (who are much more like family!) and going to church with them. They belong to a very authentic and vibrant community of believers. Their pastor preaches truth each week and his messages go deep. He emphasizes growth in believers and urges them never to forget the grace that rescued them, undeservedly, from where they came from, apart from anything they did. And yet, he also is able to preach the gospel message and urges those who are hearing for the first (or 2nd, or 10th) time to pray and ask God to soften their hearts so they may receive that same free gift. And their community is active in reaching out to those inside the body as well as their actual local community as well as around the world. It is actually quite remarkable how healthy the body is. And part of our being there for our friends was to help put on a lunch for any and all from their church who had no home/family to go to that afternoon. Being in a military community meant there were many who fit that and we ended up hosting nearly 50 people! As I sat in church Sunday morning hearing again, the amazing freedom of the joy and hope that I've been given, I could do nothing but sing my heart out rejoicing and celebrating with my brothers and sisters. With other parts of my family.
And I was humbled. For Jesus died and came back to life for these, my brothers and sisters whom I'm so quick to judge so harshly. I am called to reach out (and I still don't think that outreach happens by putting on a good quality show) but I am also called to love the bride of Jesus. I am called to show love and hope and joy. I was so thankful for what Jesus saved me from and not just before I knew him. I'm thankful that he continues to save me from unforgiveness, from bitterness, from judgmental attitudes, from arrogance. As my mind has been transformed, my heart sang with hope and life anew. And I realized, maybe the things I see so black and white, are colored in totally different ways through God's view.
It is indeed finished! Jesus covered all my sin with his blood. I'm thankful that he will continue to transform me more and more into his likeness until I can live forever with him one day!
He is risen indeed! That my friends, IS black and white!
Carolyn & (sometimes) Ty