Recently, I spoke to a friend who told me she likes (really, really likes) a guy who is not a Christian. She told me that she wants to date him. She told me she doesn’t care he isn’t a Christian. Then she told me if he wants to sleep with her while they’re dating she will. I listened. She thanked me for not judging her. She told me she couldn’t speak to any other Christians about this because they make her feel like what she wants to do is wrong. She told me she feels so lonely and she just wants to feel loved. I listened. I filtered. I questioned.
I asked her, “Have you asked God what He thinks about this guy that you like (really, really like?)”
She said, “No, I don’t speak to God anymore, I haven’t for a year. I am really angry with him. So I decided there was no point in praying anymore.”
"Whoa!” I said, “I actually don’t really care if you date this guy or not—what really worries me is where you are at with God. I know you don’t think it matters if you talk to God or not. I know that you don’t think God cares about you but whether you like it or not a broken relationship with God will affect everything.”
“I know, I know,” she replied, “but God didn’t have time for me so I don’t have time for Him. I’ve been telling Him for years that I don’t want to be alone and He isn’t listening. He wants me to be lonely. If He didn’t he would have sent someone by now.”
“Or maybe, he wanted you to Himself … maybe He wanted you to take all those lonely feelings and hopes and dreams and dump them on Him?” I almost whispered. “Maybe He wasn’t out to get you, as much as He was out to have you for his own.”
“No, He doesn’t care. And I’m just so angry with him I can’t talk to him!”
“Okay, I’m going to give you some homework, this afternoon find a place where you are all alone and get really angry with God,” I suggested. “He’s big enough for all our anger. Yell, scream, break things, if you have to, but open that conversation with Him and see what He says.”
Later, I was thinking about this conversation and about how church doesn’t really work. This friend of mine does all the “right” Christian things (you know, she’s on the worship band, she goes to church every Sunday, attends small-group every week) yet her heart is so hard towards Jesus and none of her “church” friends (me included) knew this or even bothered to ask.
Church isn’t meant to be people who mask our brokenness with good acts. It’s meant to be the place where we can freely say, “I want to sleep with that guy,” “I have slept with that girl”, “I drank too much last night” or “I lied to my colleague about that project!” It’s meant to be a place where we don’t wear these things as a badge of honour but with a spirit of confession. Church isn’t meant to be about perfect people but about confessed people. We should be able to say these things, our secrets, our sins, our mistakes, and receive love and acceptance from Jesus (and church people) when we do.
Think for a moment about Jesus. About all of the confessions, secrets, mistakes and hopes He must have heard. Think for a moment of the woman who Jesus met (John 8:2-11) who was about to be stoned for sleeping with a man who was not her husband. I bet all the people with rocks in their hands wanted to know who she slept with and how many times. They wanted to know all the details of her dirty little secret. They weren’t interested in her broken heart that tried to make itself whole through a midnight tryst or two. They weren’t interested in the broken woman who stood before them with a hole her sexual liaisons hadn’t been able to fill. They were only interested in her sin because it had sullied the walls of their whitewashed temple and had broke the laws that kept them Jewish.
Into the foray came Jesus. He came to not only save the girl from her sin but to save all the men holding stones from their hypocritical lives. Jesus came with love, tenderness and tact. He did not scream and shout – He quieted them with He love—and after He had loved them, he said “Now, go and sin no more.” Love, not judgment, goes before a changed life. Brokenness, not perfection, goes before a changed life. Think for a moment about Jesus. Who wouldn’t tell someone, who would love you into wholeness every secret, mistake and hope you’ve ever had?
So what has happened to us? When did we become the people who never need fixing, confession or healing (of course, there’s the odd case of spiritual pride but besides that only perfect people attend church?) When did the church become the people who turn Jesus away when he offers to take all our secrets and hurts and pain? When did the church become the people who care more about who our friends do or don’t sleep with then if their hearts are finding Jesus? And the final question: How do we change?
Wendy Harbottle’s earliest memories are of being in church. The granddaughter of a Pentecostal pastor, and daughter of parents who have always been in some kind of missional Christian service, she has somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the institutional church. You can read her blog at: www.halfformedwish.blogspot.com