I’ve had a lot of conversations with people over the past couple of weeks who have been very confused by me and my message/platform. They believe that someone like me, in my position, with my background and upbringing, should be preaching a different message. Instead of asking hard questions like, “How has the church hurt you?” or “Did purity culture scar you?” or writing blogs about why I swear, I should only preach positive messages about the church and purity culture and watch my language. I believe some people think I’ve gone off the deep end after being raised in such a fundamental, legalistic environment and they wonder if I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater
I understand their hearts – I really do. They aren’t trying to be nasty or argumentative. They are scared. I think as our world has changed so drastically in the past 10-20 years with the internet, technology and social media, etc (I’m rolling my eyes, but we have to make space for the fact that these things have dramatically impacted our world and culture), a lot of our religious messaging has not adapted to the times. The use of fear to keep people from experimenting is outdated. I think owning the fact that maybe we didn’t parent, lead, or teach the way we should have and are the catalyst for some people’s mental, emotional, and religious deconstructions is a hard pill to swallow. Instead of replacing fear with humility and owning when and how we got some things wrong, we are still running scared. And we’ve left a bunch of people in our wakes who are now running from a Jesus who doesn’t even exist.
Teaching me to fear certain things like the big three (sex, drugs, alcohol – should we add homosexuality and divorce?) was not the Jesus way. The Scriptures teach in 1 John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” and then again in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind”. Gosh, if there is one thing that is absent from evangelicalism today, it’s a “sound mind”. I’ve heard how I am to practice “faith over fear” and then in the same breath am told I should be “terrified” about where the world is headed. Are you as confused as I am?
I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for our decisions. We all know there are. I’m just saying our modus operandi as Jesus Follower’s needs to change from leveraging fear to promoting love. Ah love. Another word so many of us are scared to death of. Doesn’t love mean you accept a person and approve of their behavior? Does it mean you are affirming? Can we just obliterate the words, “acceptance and approval and affirming” from our vocabulary? These are three other words evangelicals have used to totally muddy the waters of unconditional love. When someone tells me they love me and who I am but then also goes out of their way to explain all the ways they disagree with me, well, that’s not very accepting or loving (this has been done to me so many times). If you do this to other people (and I have, unfortunately), it’s really selfish and fearful. It’s me wanting you to know that I love you, but also wanting everyone else to know how I disagree with your lifestyle so they don’t misunderstand or judge me. I’m also protecting myself from future guilt over your decisions. If something goes bad wrong for you, I’ll be off the hook if I’ve told you where I stand on that issue.
How on God’s green earth is any of this loving? How does this exemplify any of what 1 Corinthians 13 says love is? It doesn’t.
Gosh, we’ve gotten so much of this wrong. Jesus never went around telling people he loved them and then giving them a laundry list of the things he didn’t like about their lives. Instead, he just hung out with people who were nothing like him, never changed who he was, and loved them unconditionally. It was this love, this kindness, that lead to repentance (as Romans says).
There is so much we’ve gotten wrong throughout the years on so many topics. I’m not going to burn a bridge with someone over something that I may not like or agree with. Nope. I am going to love that person like Jesus, hook, line and sinker. My love leads them to Jesus and then I trust Jesus to lead that person in the direction HE wants them to go. It’s that simple. I’m not the assistant Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It’s not my job to manipulate change through fear. It’s not on me to convince someone to live a certain way. It’s to point people to Jesus, someone who loves them just as they are, today. Someone who has a plan for their lives and will reveal that to them. That’s my job.
So I use my platforms as safe places for people to share and feel. I ask the questions that most people are too afraid to ask and I welcome all the answers. I try to model Jesus’s way of listening and loving no matter where a person is. They need to be seen and heard. I think the sooner we can slow down and replace fear with love and manipulation with kindness, the sooner we will be able to listen and hear what people are really saying. And that’s a game changer.