I relate to Rachel Held Evans statement “The truth is, it’s easier for me to love my neighbors to the left than my neighbors to the right.”, which she confessed in her blog post titled “Big Tent, Small Town.” Rachel is part of a church plant called, The Mission, and she writes:
“Our hope is that as we continue to serve our neighbors The Mission will become a safe place for those who don’t always fit in at the church around the corner—doubters, dreamers, artists, misfits, gays and lesbians, divorcees, the lonely and the disenchanted. In addition, we want our little faith community to grow into a true picture of the Kingdom, which belongs to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the humble, and which is made up of people of all different ethnicities, political persuasions, and theological positions. From my perspective, serving and loving the people in the margins is the easy part, for I am a bit of a misfit myself. The hard part is serving and loving those who are critical of our efforts, those who say our tent is a little too big for the Bible Belt. It is inevitable that as we seek partner with other churches in our area, we will run into the very attitudes and approaches that left many of us wounded. I find myself getting all defensive when local Christians question my commitment to my faith.”
I was so right there with her, I can see her vision, feel her passion and her pain. I could have authored these very words. But then this kindred spirit turned and convicted me with these words, “But if I can’t love my critics unconditionally, all my talk of missional living and interdenominational cooperation is just useless noise, clanging cymbals. If The Mission can’t find ways to creatively partner with those ultra-conservative churches on the corner, we will never be able to tackle the biggest challenges faced by our community.”
Ouch! That hurt. I really wanted her to validate my decision to steer clear of my neighbors to the right, those who are critical and judgmental. I wanted to seek unity of the body, minus a few body parts.
While I totally agree with Rachel vision and have made unity across religious backgrounds a part of the Embrace Vision statement. Lately I have been wondering if I was overly idealistic and totally naive. Is it really possible? Can you unite people who think that only they have the “truth” with people who see “truth” differently? Is it just a rosy dream that only leads to the painful reality that the body is simply divided and can’t be united? Is Rachel just naive?
Below is the note I am thinking of sending to Rachel:
Dear Rachel – I wish you luck in your quest to partner both to the left and the right. I pray you are successful in this noble cause. I have been seeking unity of the body around shared mission for six years and have many scars to prove it. While I don’t want to be a clanging cymbal or useless noise, I am ready to concede defeat. I simply don’t think I can continue on in the fight. I pray God’s grace upon your efforts and hope that you never end up lying in a ditch with your dreams of unity battered and broken like mine. May God surround you with people who share your vision and those who will pave a peaceful path for you to walk.
Wendy – A Wounded Dreamer
What do you think? Too self-revealing? Don’t worry about me; I believe God’s grace can heal all wounds. I share this because I know that I am not alone in identifying with Rachel’s words. I also know that seeking unity within the body is not an easy task and I want to be real about the dangers.