To the Dying Church: Offer Us the Hope You Once Did
My Dear Friend,
It breaks my heart to be the one to tell you this, but I figured you might be more receptive hearing this from me. I think you already know what I'm about to tell you — it's nearly impossible you couldn't know with how loud everyone's whispers have become.
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Something is terribly wrong! You are sick.
I know this isn't the news you were hoping for, but it's the truth. With this in mind, I feel now, it is more important than ever that I lay things out for you — no matter how much it pains me. I will no longer stand by and watch you suffer. I will not allow you to continue living in denial, hoping everything will fix itself. What you are facing is very real. It requires much more than the superficial bandages you are currently using. And no matter how much you believe you are in better shape than everyone else, pointing out their weakness will not bring you healing.
Now that the tough part is out of the way, I want you to know there is hope. You can pull through this. You can get better — even better than you were before the diagnosis. But it is going to require you to make some drastic changes. Nothing short of your own blood, sweat, and tears will reverse this tragic disease.
For starters, you can no longer reject the input of everyone around you. Even when you don't like what they have to say. You must stop "[following your] own desires and [looking] for teachers who will tell [you] whatever [your] itching ears want to hear." By doing this, you have driven a wedge between you and those who love you dearly. I don't understand how you could turn your back on them — the very people who have stood by your side all these years. And then to condemn them and cast them aside for offering help? It's not making things better. You have to stop isolating yourself from everyone just because you disagree. I know that criticism is hard. I realize everyone doesn't hold the same world-view as you. But that doesn't mean they are inferior to you. Nor does it give you the right to simply write them off. Believe it or not, there is a lot you can learn from your critics. If only you would learn to take the good with the bad. To see things from their perspective. You just might be able to gleam some invaluable insight about your condition.
Furthermore, it is time you get past all this negativity. Everything isn't all bad, is it? Can you not find a single ounce of good in anything? I think it is time you admonish the words of our dear brother Paul. "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Surely you can find these things, even in the darkest places. Is God not at work there? Didn't he create all that we see? If he did, certainly you can find the good he once saw. Perhaps it's time you just look a little harder, that you may find the work God has started and partner with him in redemption.
In addition to that, you must learn to stop with all this hatred. You may think you are taking a Biblical stand. You might even be right about some of this. But why do you always feel the need to prove your knowledge? It only comes across as bigotry and ignorance. I know the world is full of "bad" people. Don't forget that you, yourself were once just like them — on the receiving end of the hatred you now spew. Singling them out and condemning them isn't helping; it's only making things worse. All this hatred is driving away those you, at one point, so desperately wanted to offer hope. When will you realize that hatred only begets hatred? In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." So, if you think the world is such a dark place, perhaps the problem doesn't lie with the world...perhaps it's because you have stopped shining the light. Of all people, you should know "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."
A professor once told me, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." There is a lot of wisdom to this statement. Until you learn, like Jesus, to put yourself in their shoes, they won't listen to a word you have to say. Wasn't it his practice to "[not] be selfish" and "[not] impress others" but to "Be humble, thinking of others as better than [himself]. [Not to] look out only for [his] own interests, but to take an interest in others, too." Isn't that what drew you to him? How quickly have you forgotten the example he set for you? If you want to be well like you once were, look to Jesus. Imitate him. The man who offered his life for a traitor race. The one who bled only love and forgiveness for us all.
Which brings me to my last point. Over the years I have noticed a change in the way you talk. And it's not just the negativity. It's even the way you share your story. To be quite honest, it's downright depressing. I don't find much hope in your words anymore. From my estimation, in order to attract the masses, your message has become reminiscent of the numerous self-help books that fill the used bookstore down the street from my work. Five easy steps for a better marriage. Three ways to financial freedom. How to boost your self-esteem. Seven habits of successful leaders. I know these are problems facing the world today, but your message used to be so much more life-giving than all of that. Your words used to inspire me to be a better person, to make the world a better place, to love not just my neighbor, but even my enemies. Lately it seems like all you talk about is how Jesus came to die for your sins. Not that this isn't true. He did, in fact die for your sins. Willingly, might I add. In obedience to the Father. But somehow you seemed to forget the broader truth. Not only did Jesus die for your sins, but for the sins of your agnostic neighbor. And the sins of the drunk, abusive father down the street. And the sins of the inmate on death row. Until you turn from this narrow-minded, self-centered message and make this about the community and restoration, your health will continue to decline. And the more you promote yourself and build your kingdom, the quicker your demise will come.
Offer us the hope you once did. Spur us on to be a beacon of hope, love, and compassion. Share again of what God will do through us, for the world. Challenge us to wash the feet of those who will betray us. Remind us how it all ends: "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" Do this, and surely you will be on the road to recovery.
I know there is so much of this I still need to work on myself. Perhaps we can do this together. Until you're ready, know that I pray for you everyday. Hoping that one day you will quit pushing away and shutting out those of us who love you. That you will listen and accept the help we desperately want to give you. I know the healing process will be difficult. It will require you to, in humility, acknowledge you were wrong. To recognize that you alone don't have all the answers. Although it will be painful in the beginning, it will eventually lend itself to healing. This is the only way for you to survive this ordeal and be whole again. I hope you will heed the words of this letter. I would, once again, like to see you in all your grandeur. Regardless of the outcome, know that I will always be grateful for the love we once shared. It has made me who am I today.
With all my love,
Jordan Davis is an aspiring writer, aspiring preacher, and aspiring pastor. Every day, he is trying to figure out what it means to follow in the footsteps of an itinerant Rabbi. He graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in 2005 with a degree in Pastoral Ministry and now resides in Sioux Falls, S.D. He blogs at http://jordanddavis.blogspot.com/.