Lord knows I have been through a lot of shit in the past 5 or so years!! Anyone who knows me can tell you!! But I am a survivor of it all, and I know I will survive whatever else happens in my life because all of it has taught me that God walks through it ALL with us. Granted, there are some places God will go with me that I just don’t wanna go! I have always taken strength from I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Giving Thanks to God IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. This Thanksgiving has been a true test of how much I believe it! We are in the midst of a move, my father is in the hospital, we are in a financial crisis…you get the picture! We are not a part of any faith community right now, well, that is kinda not true but kinda true, we meet with a group of Outlaw Preachers in Memphis, all of which (besides us) are active in “churches” but we (my family and I) are not, for us (as for many others) Outlaw Preachers is it! It has done my heart good to have a place on line where I can go to and remember why I am a follower of the Risen Lord. Sure, it has been a broken family at times, but until recently, it was a place that gave me hope!
Today, my hope was tested, my joy was replaced with sadness. I looked at Twitter and saw a beloved brother in obvious pain (you know the kind that manifests as loud, pained cries?) and I watch another beloved brother add to that pain in an attempt to prove himself a good person (one could make the argument that it was self-defense). This is NOT the first time this kind of thing has happened with the Outlaw Preachers, matter of fact, we have an unfortunate reputation for crossing the line that separates “struggling with what we believe” and “making OUR point” or becoming EXACTLY what we are trying to escape, a judgmental, authoritarian “Structure” that TELLS us how we are to believe if we are going to be the “right” kind of Christian. I have experienced an increasing intolerance for one another and it hurts a Momma’s heart to watch and to be a part of.
I have NEVER given up on this bunch of broken toys who found one another, I have always believed that like working with abused (which we all have been Spiritually abused) folks it takes love, time, effort, and patience…and you do get hurt sometimes, because you HAVE to be transparent and vulnerable until trust can grow. Problem is, sometimes we don’t remember that ALL of us are wounded, and we are ALL working through things and we don’t give each other space to do that. I have been guilty, we all have if we have stuck around long enough to invest ourselves in this “Community”. The key words here are Transparency, Community and Trust. I DO NOT believe that we can build this community without total transparency. I do not believe we can build trust if there are things hidden or a man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz reference) because THAT can NOT build trust. We are an open community and we MUST work through things in an open and loving way. This does NOT give anyone the right to start bashing everyone they disagree with, but it does give the power too the community to BE the community.
As I read my favorite words from I Thessalonians, God really asked me to read more, to put it in context this time, and to see what was really being said!! I want to share that with you:
I Thessalonians 5:12-28
12 We beg you, our friends, to pay proper respect to those who work among you, who guide and instruct you in the Christian life.13 Treat them with the greatest respect and love because of the work they do. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.15 See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people.
16 Be joyful always,17 pray at all times,18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.
19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit;20 do not despise inspired messages.21 Put all things to the test: keep what is good22 and avoid every kind of evil.
23 May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.
25 Pray also for us, friends.
26 Greet all the believers with the kiss of peace.
27 I urge you by the authority of the Lord to read this letter to all the believers.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
These words come as a farewell from Paul and as a challenge to those he is leaving to live in community even when it is tough. To hold one another accountable, but not without recognizing the need for compassion, healing and gentleness. Now, I think the question that the COMMUNITY must ask itself is “Who are those who work among us? who guide and and instruct us?” “How do we lovingly encourage those who need to work on things?” “How do we keep from returning wrongs with wrongs?”
If we can not work through this text together, I am afraid we can no longer call ourselves community. Outlaw Preachers was a wonderful idea, a place for people who’s beliefs gave them no place to be but in this little life raft, but if we spend all of our time trying to kick one another off, for fear of loosing our “safe space” instead of helping more into the boat we are punching holes in the raft that God supplied us!
As Paul closed his letter, I wish to close mine, Please pray for me, that I may serve God in all circumstances, greet one another with a kiss of peace (intimate, relational and incarnate) and may the Grace of the Lord be with you.