Eight years ago, I spent the months of June and July updating my passport, getting the required vaccines, and trying to figure out what in the world I should pack. Each day spent getting ready to travel to Bolivia as a member of the World Vision Bolivia Bloggers Team.
I was considerably older than the rest of the team’s members and I definitely had the smallest platform … I’m still in awe of the ways God worked to graciously allow me to go on this life-changing trip.
The trip itself is not the reason for this post.
You see, the reason I’m writing this is … I met Rachel Held Evans that week.
I chose not to speak out while she was ill and following her death. But recently, I’ve felt the Lord’s nudge to share some thoughts with you.
Not as much thoughts about Rachel as thoughts about the rest of us.
You see, I struggle with being judgmental. There is something self-righteously satisfying about stopping to call out the people we deem”false teachers.” The people we believe are doing or say “it” wrong. Whatever we decide “it” is.
Honestly, I caught myself being guilty again just the other day.
So, I’m definitely not here to preach at you. Like you, I’m on a journey of faith … honestly sharing the things the Lord lays on my heart. They are things I need to hear and so I wonder if you might need them too.
Back to Bolivia and meeting Rachel…
Rachel and the others in the group were the ages of my children. Their life experiences differed from mine in almost every way. Although, I probably shared my thoughts with them more than I’d like to admit … I hope I asked lots of questions and listened intentionally because several of their ideas were new to me and I wanted to know more.
Rachel was in the middle of writing her book – A Year of Biblical Womanhood.
The following is the first paragraph of the book’s synopsis on Amazon.
Strong-willed and independent, Rachel Held Evans couldn’t sew a button on a blouse before she embarked on a radical life experiment—a year of biblical womanhood. Intrigued by the traditionalist resurgence that led many of her friends to abandon their careers to assume traditional gender roles in the home, Evans decides to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year.
I smiled as I read those words because I don’t remember Rachel, as being strong-willed, although I’ll admit I only spent a week with her.
What I do remember about her is her smile and willingness to laugh, her kindness, and her passion for the children and families we were visiting and her heart for the ministry of World Vision.
Did I agree with everything that was said that week? No.
But I cared for and about everyone on the trip … including Rachel. When I heard she was ill, I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would heal her. And it broke my heart to learn she had died.
There was something else that broke my heart…
People using that heart-breaking time to say cruel and hateful things about her on social media because they disagreed with what she wrote.
Jesus is the One Who Can Unite People in a Call Out World
So, why am I writing about this now weeks later?
Last week, the Lord tapped me on the shoulder as I was read the following in Jonah and 1 John…
Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.
Why? Because Jonah hated the Assyrians and believed they deserved God’s judgment. Jonah had judged them and believed they deserved whatever God’s punishment.
So, when God asked him to go and “deliver the message” … Jonah took off in the opposite direction.
Which is how he found himself in the belly of a big fish.
God graciously and mercifully turned him around and gave him a second opportunity to obey. Which he did.
Jonah went to Nineveh and gave them God’s message:
“Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”Jonah 3:4
And do you know what happened?
The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.Jonah 3:5
But Jonah was not happy…
“Didn’t I say before I left home that You would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.Jonah 4:2
As I sat there pondering my own judgmental attitudes, I turned to my New Testament reading in 1 John 2:
Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.1 John 2:7
So, my heart was hearing … don’t judge people—love them!
I kept reading…
If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.1 John 2:9
The Life Application Bible Notes say:
John’s words focus on the attitude that causes us to ignore or despise others, to treat them as irritants, competitors, or enemies. Christian love is not a feeling but a choice. We can choose to be concerned with people’s well being and treat them with respect, whether or not we feel affection toward them.
And I would add, whether or not we agree with them.
The LAB Notes also say:
Love should be the unifying force and identifying mark of the Christian community. Love is the key to walking in the light.
Friends, you and I are representing Jesus to the world. Why would anyone want what we have … when we publicly ridicule, condemn, and call out those with whom we disagree.
When we don’t agree, you and I are called to speak the truth in love.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.Ephesians 4:15
Maybe we need to be more focused on love because too often we forget that part, choosing to speak the truth with a sledgehammer.
What if speaking the truth in love looked more like…
Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.1 Peter 2:15b–16
What if we did a better job of humbly telling our own broken stories that share the transforming power of God’s love!
What if we just told people about Jesus, the One who not only knows the truth but who is the Truth and the Way and the Life.
You see, He’s the One who prayed..
Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, You have given me Your name; now protect them by the power of Your name so that they will be united just as we are.John 17:11
He prayed for us to be united by His love and I want to honor Jesus’ prayer.
So, I’m asking God to give me eyes to see everyone as a soul desperately in need of His love. I’m asking Him to make me gracious and merciful in the way I treat others. I’m asking Him to help me listen more and call out less.
I don’t want people to know the truth according to Deb. I want people to know Jesus and experience the power of His transforming love.
1 John 4:8 says:
God is love!
Overwhelming love! Love who never gives up … who mercifully and patiently seeks out people and transforms lives.
Love who can unite people in a broken and sinful world. Love who can heal hearts and relationships. Love who has promised us LIFE!
I want to care more about people and less about being right. I want to treat everyone with caring kindness and compassion. And I want to be silent when I’m tempted to call out.
I’m praying with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will do a better job of loving like Jesus.
Will you please pray with me?
Father, thank you for faithfully showing me Your grace, mercy, and love. Please, please forgive me for failing to extend the same grace, mercy, and love to others. Please help me realize that I don’t have to agree with someone to be respectful, caring, and compassionate. Help me to be a better example of Your love in my home, at work, at church, in my community, and online. Unite us, Father, by Your love. In the name of Jesus. By Your grace and for Your glory. Amen.
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