Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All Apologies,8599,1992171,00.html

This was the June 2010 cover of TIME magazine. I happened upon it while rushing to an ATM in a convenience store. The restaurant I had just eaten at took cash only and I only had plastic. To make matters worse I had brought a number of youth along with the promise that I would pay for the meal. So while my young friends awkwardly hung-out at our table, I rushed to my car and drove like a madman trying to find an ATM. It's funny how easily distracted I can be. This magazine caught my eye and I forgot about what I was supposed to be doing. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. Eventually I did remember and got the cash, returned to the restaurant and paid the bill.

So what was it about this cover that stopped me in my tracks? It wasn't the catholic church's sexual abuse scandal that I resinated with. It wasn't the the Pope's unwillingness to apologize. I saw a much deeper, more universal issue. It was the church's (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Liberal, Anabaptist, Independent, Parachurch...) unwillingness to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness.

I will admit that perhaps my view of church has been skewed or rather scarred by a few people who hurt me deeply. It is something I have wrestled with for many years now. There was a time, because of my wounds, when I wanted nothing to do with God and especially not his church. Over the years God has healed my wounds and brought me to a great church, not a perfect one, but a good one. I still walk with limp, but I see much clearer. I believe God has used my wounds to teach me much about myself and his church. I might even go so far to say that I am glad for the wounds but it has been a long and dark road to be able to speak those words. 

I empathize deeply with those who are frustrated with the church, who've been hurt by the church, who've become disappointed with God because of the church. One thing I've learned is that hate toward one church quickly spreads like a cancer toward the whole church and eventually toward God. Most atheist's I've talked to have stopped believing in God rather than never believed in God--often because of very negative experiences with religious people. I believe this is one reason why humility and confession are such an important practice for the church. At times we've done good things (like Evangelism) in bad ways and hurt people. At times we've done bad things (like Legalism) with good of intentions and hurt people. James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." We need to wake up to the fact that there are a lot of walking wounded both inside and outside the church. Maybe you weren't the one who hurt them but perhaps you can be the Good Samaritan in their life.

Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz, tells a story of how confession began to change the university he attended. Every year his school celebrated a week of debauchery--anything went. He and his friends decided to set-up a confessional booth in the middle of campus with a sign outside that said "confess your sins." They dressed as priests, pastors and monks and waited for people to come. Inside the confessional booth the priest would then confess the church's sin--the inquisition, the holocaust, racism, witch hunts, homosexual hatred etc. With tears in their eyes people would leave the both and run to get their friends. It was a transformative moment.

I have experienced the power of confession first hand. It was the day I went back to my doctor to refill my anti-depressant prescription--I had sunk into depression shortly after resigning as youth pastor. After a year symptom free I stopped treatment but soon the darkness returned. On my way home from the doctor's office I had to drive past my old church. I decided to see how the church secretary was doing. As we were chatting, the new pastor popped in and asked if he could talk with me. He talked for a long time about what he was doing with the church. I was wondering why he was telling me this, when he stopped and said, "So the question I have for you is... What if anything does this church need to do to be in right relationship with you?" I broke down in tears in this strangers office. He was the first person to acknowledge my hurt and he had nothing to do with my wounds. I don't know what happened that day but I walked out of that room a changed man. That night I went to take my pills but something inside of me was different. That was years ago and I still haven't touched those pills. I was healed by stranger who humbled himself on behalf of others and sought to make amends.

I guess what I've been trying to say is perhaps what the world needs from us Christians is less Apologetics and more Apologies.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Very powerful brother. I'm glad you shared this part of your life. I'm glad that God has healed you, and can continue to heal others through your testimony and your true living "apology" of Christ in you.