I’ll be honest with you, when I imagine what a Christian looks like, what comes to mind are people who are living and enjoying the American Dream. They are happy families with two well-behaved children, good jobs and have a middle-to-upper-level income. Of course they attend church, which has a handsome, well-dressed pastor, his attractive and outgoing wife and of course two gifted children who themselves minister on the worship team. The members of their church are people not unlike themselves who are lead in worship by someone who could easily be mistaken for a talented, sexy pop star. All of their lives seem annoyingly close to perfect.
Aside from its people, the culture and business of Christianity is as wildly successful and flourishing as well. It has its mega-churches, its celebrities, authors and rock stars. Turn on the TV and see the televangelists promising us better lives, healing and salvation with such passion while surrounded by their thousands of followers who pack the beautiful multimillion dollar buildings. The message that all of this sends me is, “look at the great things God can do for you, look at how successful and beautiful and happy we all are. Why not join us?”
Then there is the Bible–God’s word and our daily bread. It is a book that recounts the stories of blessings and triumph, Kings and wealth, bravery and honor. A book so highly respected that it sits on the nightstand of the wealthy, in the bookcase of the powerful and is in the briefcase of the important. The Bible and its words have been truth to slave owners, Presidents and oppressors. It is a sacred book that at times in history could only be read by a man or interpreted by a religious leader. It is a book for victors and champions, the strong and the brave.
At times it seems to be a Book and a faith that is for everyone but those who are feeling hopeless, defeated, rejected and are just trying to survive.
However, in between the writings of blessing, triumph and wealth, God does something that continues to touch and bless me. Almost as if he were to say, “I have not forgotten you, my poor, broken-hearted child. I have addressed the others and now I desire to speak to you.” And so He does.
God commands that no one should “take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” Jesus himself blessed “the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” David in the Psalms, referred to God as “a Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” Not quite the tagline to a flashy superhero but defiantly the heart of a gentle and compassionate God. Jesus tells a parable of a great banquet in which the master (who represents God) tells his servant “go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” God desires the presents of the outcasts of society and so once again hope is rekindled in the heart of discouraged and downcast.
Through all the victory parades and praise reports God gently reminds the downtrodden that he is still there beside them. It is as if among all the great accounts of achievement and people of honor, He has left little tidbits of hope sprinkled throughout the gospel for those in distress as well. I believe God’s heart towards us is such that when He sees those with tears in their eyes, He slowly slips away from the celebration to take care of his wounded, abandon child.
Though Christianity marches on victoriously, God reminds the poor, the slaves, the rejected, those who feel they have had their very souls ripped away from them that He is right there beside them and will see them through. As the mega-churches experience revival, God comforts the pastor of the rundown, forgotten church of thirty-two members. As hundreds are saved at an evangelistic crusade, God whispers hope to an elderly woman living on the streets. As the perfect family of four travels home from church on Sunday, God gives a single mother a few moments of His peace as her crying child has finally fallen to sleep.
Personally I prefer the humble and the meek. I prefer the company of those that hold onto God because He is their very last hope and not because of His blessings. I am more comfortable with those who have emotional scars and wounded hearts. I feel a kinship with those who have wondered away. We believe in God not because of His blessing but because we must, it is all we have. I don’t care if He wants to concern himself with building mega-churches and ministries. The only thing I am concerned with is that He is apart of my life and continues to be one of the few things that holds it all together and gives me hope.
Maybe you can relate with me and feel a little like an outsider within the body of Christ. There are so many whose lives are victorious, and thank God for that, but in our world sometimes it seems as if we have a losing record. We are down more than we are up. We cry more than we laugh. We pray for miracles, for hope and simply to hear a whisper to know God is still there.
Thankfully God left a few scattered messages of hope and comfort to us ragamuffins. So at least in my dark, stormy, doubt-filled world I can still proclaim, “God is here!”