Give A Gift That Defies Our Differences

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Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 1

As we all know, tensions are high in the United States these days. If you’re like me I not quite sure how to respond or engage. I feel like I freeze more often than not. That’s why I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine.

Sanchez Fair and I know each other for almost five years and his passion for God and people inspires me and those around us to step out of our comfort zones and engage life in all its complexity and beauty head on.

And that’s what he did. When Charlotte was set into a social frenzy because a police officer shot and killed a black man, Sanchez hit the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina to gain a perspective and offer some hope.

I asked him to share his experience. Here’s what he had to say about walking the streets. Read it with your eyes and hear it with your soul. Grace and Peace.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Sanchez Fair. I’m from Greenville, SC. I was born in a Christian home where both parents were Pastors. My family was split at an early age. My mother left my dad because of verbal and physical abuse, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. Both parents would re-marry. My mother to my step-father, who would become more of a father figure to me. I was one of eight kids (some being half and step siblings). Music has always been my passion. Both of my parents were musicians and they started me out playing music at church on Sunday from a very young age. I would grow up and travel the world playing music and it’s a blessing to call it my vocation. My interests and passions are religion, people, music, and creativity of all kinds. I believe the four are beautiful and important to everyday life.

Neither of us are native to Charlotte but we share a love for the city. With all the racial tension going on locally and nationally, what is your objective perspective of all that’s going on?

My objective perspective about what all is going on locally and nationally has everything to do with the four things that interest me. My passion for religion, people, music, and creativity aren’t a coincidence. I believe we are all bent towards the four subconsciously, without even knowing it, and they’re expressed in every facet of our lives.

My heart breaks for everything going on. Being African American in general right now is tough because there are so many mixed emotions going on. There’s hurt, there’s fear, there’s frustration, there’s uncertainty on how to move forward, and it seems as if it’s harder to unify.

After Keith Lamont Scott was shot by a Charlotte police office just a few days ago, you made your way to center city Charlotte to wade into the thick of it. What motivated you to do that?

I was motivated by love. I have a deep desire to reconcile, bridge, and be in the trenches with people who are hurting and in pain. There was and is a lot of hurt and I don’t just mean the angry black people. I saw the hurt in the ordinary and in the eyes of our police. Looking at a cop, asking if I can pray for him, and he fearfully asking for me to pray for him and his family because they are scared, hurts on so many levels. It’s easy to pray in the church for our broken and fallen world, but it’s a different thing to walk in the middle of it.

I’ve lived in the suburbs over the last five years, and I found it to be almost unnatural for me. Key word, ALMOST! When I walked/walk these streets now, I come alive. I was made for this. I was created to love those different than me. I was created to love, and love casts out all fear and insecurity. There’s so much beauty in Charlotte, and Charlotte is singing a beautiful song. I deeply desire to be a part of the song of Charlotte.

What were your top take aways from walking the streets of downtown Charlotte and having conversations with protestors and bystanders?

I probably talked to over 500 people and the emotions were all over the place, but everyone, in their own unique way, wanted to peace.

Whether it looks like justice or for racism to end. I felt true, authentic love from the folks on the streets. I saw unity in different ways. I saw the media twisting the story and trying to cause emotions to flair, but I saw folks respond in love. I met angry protestors who threatened a guy because he was washing Black Lives Matter off walls, however, the white guy didn’t allow that to taint his deep desire and longing for peace. (I actually ended up walking the streets with him a good bit of the day).

It was great seeing some pastors drive from the surrounding areas, particularly white pastors, asking African Americans how they felt. They were committed to learning how to listen. It was incredible to have the opportunity to pray with a vast variety of people. The last thing was praying for two older black ladies. One worked for the police station and the other owned her on funeral business. They were hurting but they were extremely proud and encouraging. They thanked me for what I was doing and said that it was refreshing to see a young black man walking the street, bringing peace and healing to our city. There were so many take aways.

To be continued…

Your Brow Is Not Furrowed (A Poem)

Everyone once in a while I take a stab at poetry. It’s amateur but it expresses some thoughts that don’t translate as well in paragraph form.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy.

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Your Brow Is Not Furrowed
A Poem

Your face is not stern
and Your brow is not furrowed,
Your eyes are not cold.
A warm non-verbal posture,
holiness ablaze with joy.

Relieved of the fear
there is no condemnation,
undefined by shame.
Possessing Divine favor,
our crowning identity.

You don’t disappoint
you’re approved by God’s merit,
you can’t let God down.
We stand under a glad gaze
of loving Reality.

My soul is set free
to delight in the Divine,
to embrace bright bliss.
Nothing to earn or perform,
I rest in fullness of peace.

A Protestant and A Catholic Walk Into A Blog – Part 2

Last week we started a conversation with a my friend, Zac Johnson on the topic of Catholicism, and how Protestants, like me, might be missing the point (and maybe even aspects of the Kingdom of God).

On with the interview…here’s part 2:

Who inspires you, and why?

Man, who inspires me? Jesus Christ on that Cross. Have you ever just looked at a crucifix for a little while and really tried to understand why He did it? What He felt? How He was thinking about you and me as he hung there? Stuff’s overwhelming. I want to love like that. I want to love my wife like that. I want to love [people] like that. So Jesus is my first inspiration.

Next in line is all of the men and women throughout the centuries who have let Christ inspire them and have set the world on fire because of it: the saints.

Here’s just one example: St. Peter Claver. Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary who was born in 1581. In 1610, Peter left his home forever to cross the Atlantic for the New World, where he became a missionary to Cartagena in modern day Colombia. During this time, the slave trade had been very active in the Americas for almost 100 years, and Cartagena was a huge center for it. Tens of thousands of slaves were transported across the ocean each year in the most horrendous, disgusting conditions imaginable. A third of the slaves on board died just from the conditions of the ship. As soon as the ship of the slaves who survived the journey would dock at Cartagena’s port, Peter Claver would rush into it’s diseased hull to minister to the sick and exhausted slaves. While the slaves were chained together and put on display for others to stand and look at, Peter dove in among them with medicine and food and assured them that they have dignity that no man can take from them because of God’s unfailing love for them. In those precious few minutes, Peter was able to preach to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves throughout his life. Can you imagine walking through Heaven’s gates and seeing 300,000 people who are there because you shared Jesus with them?

I want to have the courage that St. Peter Claver had to share Christ with those who are in most need of Him. I want to have a heart like the one St. Peter Claver had for the poor, the sick, and the needy. I want to be as brave as St. Peter Claver, who stood up for truth and love in a world that glorified hatred and selfishness. St. Peter Claver is just one saint among thousands who inspires me to seek Jesus with greater fervor and to be obedient to God’s call in my life to change the world in whatever way He wants me to.

How have Protestants and Evangelicals missed it when it comes to the Catholic tradition?

Firstly, I’ve got to say, the last thing I want to do is hurt anybody’s feelings or put down anyone’s belief. So, to preface my answer to this question, I want to make one thing clear: what I’m talking about here has to do with truth, not preference. Truth is objective (there is one truth that is the same no matter who you are) but preference is subjective (it varies from person to person). I am not a Catholic out of preference, I am a Catholic because I believe Catholicism is true. So, I’m not trying to trump my religion over anybody else’s, I’m simply trying to challenge others to reexamine their beliefs and the beliefs of the Catholic Church through a neutral lens so that we can all see as objectively as possible where the truth lies. 

With that being said, the answer to the question “Where have Protestants and Evangelicals missed it when it comes to the Catholic tradition?” I think it is best summarized by this phrase: We can’t separate Christ the head from the Church, His Body. We get this from Colossians 1:18, where Paul says, “Christ is the head of the church, which is his body.” If there’s one thing all Protestant denominations have in common it’s this: they believe that the Bible alone is the only infallible rule of faith and that there is not “one Church” with authority from Christ that can lead and guide Christians infallibly in His name. The Protestant tradition has taken the Scriptures, where they meet and learn to love Christ the head (very good things!), but have left His Body, the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus almost 2,000 years ago. Because of this decision, Protestants have removed themselves out from under the authority of the pope (who Catholics do not believe is God and do not worship – he is the successor to Peter the Apostle who was the first pope/leader of the Church), do not have any divine guidance when it comes to interpreting hard or confusing passages of Scripture, and have left many of the sacraments of the Church, the most heartbreaking of which is the Eucharist (communion) which is the actual Body and Blood of Christ given by God to nourish our souls.

I know that many Protestant Christians suggest that “the Church” is merely the spiritual union of all believers. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that it’s not found anywhere in Scripture. In Matthew 18:17, Jesus says that when Christians sin and have disagreements, they should, “Tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” If the Church is merely the spiritual union of all believers, how can we take a disagreement to it when it’s invisible? What if I’m a good Presbyterian over here on my side of the street and you’re a good Baptist over there on your side of the street, whose church do we take it to? The Church must be visible, united, and infallibly led by God for Jesus to command us to go to it and listen to its decisions. There are many other verses in Scripture that talk about Christ conferring authority on to the apostles (who passed that authority on to their successors, the bishops) and about an authoritative Church deciding on matters of doctrine. ([Acts 15 is a good example, which] is all about the Council of Jerusalem where the Church made her first doctrinal pronouncement.) 

I also think that it is unfortunate that many in the Protestant tradition have rejected (or are not aware of) the first 1,500 years of Christian history (before the time of Luther and the “Reformers”). In the centuries following Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, the first Christians, those who knew the apostles personally, wrote down much of what the apostles believed and taught. These early Christian writers are called the “Church Fathers” and they give us a great glimpse into what Jesus and the apostles taught and what the early Church believed. For example, a writer named Ignatius of Antioch who learned at the feet of John the Apostle wrote the following in a letter around 110 AD (the last book of the Bible, Revelation, was written around 90 AD): </em

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery [where we get the word ‘priest’] as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”  Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8. 

For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, all Christians believed in the Eucharist and went to Mass (the Catholic worship service). All Christians were a part of the Catholic Church and believed it was established by Christ and given His authority with the pope as its head. All christians participated in the Sacraments and lived life in full communion with the Church. It’s only been within the past 500 years that Protestantism arose and developed to the point that there are now over 30,000 different Protestant denominations. 

So, to be blunt, I believe that wherever the Protestant tradition differs from the Catholic tradition Protestants are missing out. That’s not to say that there aren’t very good things in the Protestant tradition that Catholics can learn from! Protestants have a very deep and beautiful love for Christ in the Scriptures (something we Catholics can take a page from – pun intended), and they are dang good musicians! The point is: there’s an invitation to more – more of Jesus, more of His love, more of His Church.

What’s your favorite practice of the Catholic tradition, and how does it feed your soul?

My favorite tradition has got to be Eucharistic adoration. 
Eucharistic adoration is where the Eucharist, which we believe is truly and literally the Body of Jesus under the appearance of bread (He said “This is my Body” at the Last Supper), is placed into a golden container like the one pictured below for us to praise and worship. You can sit or kneel in front of Jesus, gazing at Him as He gazes back at you, talking to Him and loving Him. This is one of the most beautiful, life-changing traditions I’ve found in the Catholic Faith, and it has worked miracles for my relationship with Jesus. 

You just recently had two incredible, once in a lifetime, moments, a visit to Notre Dame and you saw Pope Francis live in DC. What we’re those experiences like? How did they impact you personally?

Oh man, those were both incredible experiences. Notre Dame was amazing for the simple fact that it’s Catholic as heck. You can’t go anywhere without seeing statues of baller saints, and they have one of the most beautiful cathedral churches I’ve ever been inside. We also got a personal tour of the campus from the Bishop of Notre Dame who’s friends with my good friend’s dad. 
And seeing Pope Francis live in Washington D.C. was an absolute dream come true. It was honestly the coolest experience of my life, and one that I will NEVER forget. We get to see him speak to Congress about all of the important issues facing the world today: marriage, the poor, life, war, and many others. We stood on the lawn of the Capital Building and watched him on a big jumbo screen. After the speech, he came out and waved to us and gave a blessing to all of the children and families there. We were on a spiritual high, and I don’t think I’ll ever come down. 

Where do you see yourself this time next year, this time 10 years from now?

10 years from now, I hope to have graduated from law school and hope to be steeped in the fight for the rights of persecuted peoples. I have a big heart for the rights of Christians and for unborn children – both of whom are constantly targeted and attacked unjustly. I hope to be able to influence government policy that will defend life and promote healthy marriages, as well as do whatever I can for people in need of legal assistance. If I don’t actually end up going to law school (I’m in undergrad right now) then I’ll be working for the Church somewhere, perhaps doing mission work somewhere.

Give us a mic drop or a tweet or something to put in a fortune cookie.

“God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful.” – Mother Teresa.

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Ahh… I am so grateful to Zac for taking the time to share his heart for Christ and his love for the Catholic Church. I have always found our conversations insightful and enriching. I hope you did too.

Zac and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but I do appreciate his ability to articulate and practice what he believes. Reflecting on our conversation and the authentic perspective, I’ve come away with a few take aways:

1. I have a lot to learn. I have spent a number of years allowing arrogant superiority to taint my view of most denominations, particularly Catholicism. Just because I prefer one over the other doesn’t make it supreme. I wonder sometimes how my narrow view of Catholicism has limited my view of the expansive spectrum of God. The branch of Christianity I’m associated with gives a decent angle of the divine, but it doesn’t give the whole picture. No one church does. Once I’ve claimed to figured God out, that’s the exact moment I lose touch with God’s incomprehensible mystery.

Even though the Reformers of the 16th century acted like they had all the answers, Protestants don’t have it all figured out. We could learn a thing or two from the reverence, the tradition, the art, and the perspective of our Catholic sisters and brothers.

2. Catholics are pros at compassionate action. Protestants are pros at excessive talking. I want to talk less and act more. Sure, Catholics have a lot to talk about, but I am inspired by the merciful lives of the Catholic saints. Whether it’s St. Peter Claver, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, Father Greg Boyle, or the Nuns on the Bus, and the countless others, Catholics have a knack for serving the poor and caring for the marginalized of society. Of course they’re not perfect but they are compassionate. Some will say it’s works based, but as Zac shared, you can’t stare at Christ for too long without being moved to a mindset of humility that is willing and eager to offer the grace and peace of God to the world.

Between Protestants and Catholics, God matters most. Yes, we have our differences, but they’re not worth dividing over. Our union is in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In John 17:21 Jesus prayed, I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. It’s rattling to think that the world may be rejecting God because of our unwillingness to unify. Let us not sacrifice influence for the sake of preference.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:18

Branches and denominations aren’t supreme.

Christ is.

How To Handle The Trump Card – Part 1

 

Let’s talk about Donald Trump.

Think of one word to describe ‘The Donald.’

It’s hard, isn’t it? To think of just one word to describe him. I can think of 10 words without even thinking, 100 more if you gave me 10 seconds to think. There are a lot of words that we could use to describe him, some supportive, some disapproving, some disrespectful. I have my own words that I’ll keep to myself, but the honest-to-God first word that came to my mind was:

Polarizing.

From his promises regarding deportation to his views on Muslims to his statements about other politicians to his ‘New York values,’ he sets people on edge and causes others to practically salivate. He’s an object of political lust for some and a backdrop for dartboards for others.

Based on recent polls he’s the current front runner for the GOP. The polls don’t make him a shoo-in, they just indicate where he stands among the other candidates in the race for presidential nominee. We’ll see how things unfold.

The loudest critique I hear of Trump’s candidacy is that he doesn’t have a clear plan of action. This may be true, but he does have a massive platform. He knows it, too. While speaking at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina he emphasized his ability to pack out arenas. He recently received a rowdy endorsement from Tina Fey, I mean, Sarah Palin. And it’s becoming more evident that he’s won some sort of support from a few religious leaders, like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham.

This doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does warrant a couple questions.

What should we do if Donald Trump becomes the President of the United States of America? (Maybe a more pertinent question would be, what should we do with Trump in the meantime?)

As people for the well-being and thriving of humanity and the world, there are a few practices we must embrace no matter who’s in charge, or in office.

Remember The Powerless

When someone in leadership, at any level–social, educational, professional or presidential, overlooks or neglects the marginalized: the poor, the refugee, the disabled, the orphan, or the widow, we have an obligation to raise our voice on their behalf.

A voice of awareness.

A voice of compassion.

A voice of justice.

A voice of hope.

A voice to assure them that even though some may have forgotten them, we have not.

Proverbs 31:8-10 could not be more straight forward regarding this issue,

Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
    and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
    and to defend the needy and the poor.

These verses imply that we’re paying attention. That we notice the voiceless members of society all around us: the vulnerable, the subjects of injustice, the poor, and the needy, so we can speak on their behalf. To affirm and defend their rights, and their existence.

One of the most outstanding personifications of these verses is a man named, Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson represents children in prison and people on death row. The voiceless. He still believes they deserve a chance. For many, a second chance. A second chance for freedom and dignity. A chance for redemption.

I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I believe that for every person on the planet. I think if somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. And because of that there’s this basic human dignity that must be respected by law. I also believe that in many parts of this country, and certainly in many parts of this globe, that the opposite of poverty is not wealth. I don’t believe that. I actually think, in too many places,the opposite of poverty is justice.

Bryan Stevenson, TED2012

It can be hard to believe, but one voice can go a long way for the powerless. Imagine what more than one voice could do.

Pray For The Powerful

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

This has to be one of the most outrageous scriptures in the bible. It can feel almost as improbable as Jesus’ instruction to pray for our enemies. If we have a problem with authority in general, or a leader from a certain political party specifically, prayer is nearly impossible.

The writer of these verses, the Apostle Paul, brushes our preferences aside and makes prayer for all those in authority about more than what we want, or what we like. He says that our prayers for presidents (and presidential hopefuls) can actually save people. The interesting thing about the word saved is that it is traditionally understood as eternal salvation. The word can also mean to save a suffering one, or to save from destruction.

A legitimate task for any president.

To be frank, some of Donald Trump’s statements are threatening. Even though he wants to make America great again, his declarations have the potential to cause more harm than good.

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a missionary that travels regularly across the globe. I asked him how things were around the world and how the rest of the world views our presidential candidates. He responded by explaining that many global citizens tend to view U.S. citizens through the lens of our leaders and celebrities. If our leaders and celebrities act and speak one way, they reason, the rest of us must as well.

The categorization feels unfair, but the criticism and condemnation we have for them seems merited. If that’s accurate, cursing our country’s representatives will never produce the results that prayer has the potential to.

Prayer has a way of working on us personally, more than it appears to work on those we’re praying for. That may exactly be the point the Apostle Paul is making.

Live At Peace With Everyone

In a country obsessed with dualism–us versus them, who’s in and who’s out, drawing lines and picking sides–it’s natural to live at odds with others. Most of our nation’s division center’s around team rivalries, social, racial, and financial status, religious superiority, and, yes, political affiliations.

Disunity has the potential to breed dehumanization. When we view others as better and worse, valuable and worthless, loved and unloved, we will automatically treat people as less than us, or less than the group that validates us.

Romans 12:18 calls us to elevate our actions above the categories that divide us:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

We can’t force others to live at peace with us, this scripture has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with us doing everything in our power to live at peace with those around us.

Those on our team and those on the other team.
Those who believe what we believe and those who believe in something else.
Those who dress like us, look like us, think like us, and act like and those who have nothing in common with us.
Those on our side and those on the other side.
Those who vote like we do and those who vote for the other candidate.
Those who love Donald Trump and those who hate him.

Peace is willing to accept our differences and bless unconditionally simply because we all are human.

Whatever you do, use all the energy you can muster, to live at peace with one another.

These three practices are not exclusive to ‘The Trumpster,’ they’re necessary whether
Hillary

Sanders

Cruz

Rubio

Carson

Bush

or Christie gets elected.

Political despair is not a helpful response, and uncooperative disrespect will get us nowhere. Wherever you stand and however you vote:

Remember the powerless.
Pray for the powerful.
Live at peace with everyone.

An Empire I Want Nothing To Do With

Is the church for people?

A good friend of mine posed this question to me a couple weeks ago. It’s a provoking question. The reason being the preposition, for. It makes the question open-ended, layered, and versatile.

What is the question asking?

Is the church for people–has it been given to people intentionally?

Or, is the church for people–on their side, in their corner?

Or, is the church for people–meant to be used in a particular manner?

(Take a second to scratch your head in confusion, stroke your real or imaginary beard in contemplation, and rub the back of your neck in consternation.)

How would you answer?

For me, I’m not so sure anymore.

I recently spent a few days with some friends on a retreat. As we were discussing things like work, and struggles, and plans, someone asked all of us, what is wearing you down, what is making you tired?

I took a moment to reflect and then responded:

I’m worn out with and and tired of the attitude and actions of the church in the public sphere–in interviews on the news and posts on social media and articles in the newspaper.

A few days after the retreat I returned home to find out that Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of my alma mater, Liberty University, had made an outrageous statement in response to the shootings in San Bernardino:

If the people in that community center had had what I got in my back pocket right now…If more good people had conceal carry permits then we can end those Muslims. I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let’s teach ’em a lesson if they ever show up here.

ugh. smh.

It seems as if the church’s public statement to the question, is the church for people, is one of exclusion, self-righteousness, judgment, arrogance, and fear. So, no.

And it’s wearing me out. Because I’m associated. I’m invested. I have the same last name, essentially, and the crazy relatives are talking out of turn.

A couple thoughtful individuals have found words to express what I feel all knotted up in my chest and pulsing in my rising blood pressure:

First, Charles Howard, University Chaplain of the University of Pennsylvania writes:

The most upsetting thing for me in wake of the recent terror attacks beyond my grief for those lost, is what all of this doing to the church. The fear that has snuck into many hearts is now changing the Body of Christ making us in some parts completely unrecognizable and little like the One whose name we bear. And many of us who object to the Terrorized Post-Christian Church that is emerging are standing silently on the margins, in some ways offering just as poor a witness.

Next, Shane Claiborne, author and activist, spoke out saying, As I listened to the words of Mr. Falwell, I could not help asking, ‘Are we worshipping the same Jesus?’

To give everyone a little bit of history, Christianity was birthed within the realm and rule of the Roman Empire. The church suffered great wakes of persecution and suffering as it grew under the watchful eye and heavy hand of the Caesars. The most fascinating part of the church’s response to terror, intimidation, and persecution was faith, hope, charity, joy, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness–actions proving response that the Gospel is actually good news for all people–for they were humans living in tune with resurrection. This does not mean, in any way, that they didn’t feel pain or sadness or grief or fear, but they chose a different response. 

Not an empire response.

A kingdom response.

The Roman Empire wanted to dominate the known world.

The kingdom of God wanted to bring abundant life to the whole universe.

Caesar used violence and fear to bring continents into submission.

Jesus used sacrifice and blessing to bring the dead to life.

As Christianity expanded it would eventually become the religion of the Roman Empire. Any time an empire gets hold of something it typically uses it for it’s own advantage. This is what happened and soon enough the church was persecuting others and subjecting the “irreligious” and different-religious to different forms of torment (spiritually, religiously, physically, socially).

Is this not happening today when it comes to the issues of guns, gays, Muslims, race, refugees, and political parties?

It sounds extreme but the leaders of the Christian Empire are using their platform and influence to promote fear and violence. It all comes across as a bunch of talk without much care for those they talk to or talk about.

This is an empire I want nothing to do with.

It seems purely anti-Christ.

For the message of Christ was the complete opposite:

Faith over fear.

Peace over violence.

Love over hate. (Seriously. Seriously, before you do anything else, love first!!!!)

Does this mean we should live carelessly? Of course not! It was Jesus who told us to be wise as serpents, but let us not forget, in the same phrase he balanced it by telling us to be gentle as doves.

Are we peacemakers or violent avengers?

Are we afraid of all we see or do we have faith in what is unseen?

The Empire will always be for itself.

The kingdom of God is for all people.

The church is to be an expression of this preposition.

Pope Francis (who appears to be inciting change within his context), describing it perfectly, as only he can, puts it this way, we [the church] are to be the visible sign of the Father’s love in the world.

This is the only way that anyone will ever know, and believe, that the church, and its God, is for them.

And the only way worth our energy.