taking the words of Jesus seriously

Dear Church,

You have been there since before I was born, looking out for my parents and praying for my health. You were there when I was baptized into God’s family at the ripe old age of 14 days. You were there when I took my first steps into Sunday School, when I affirmed my faith in confirmation, when I questioned my faith as a struggling teenager, when I married my husband, and when I brought my own infant children to the baptismal font.

You haven’t just been there for nearly every major event in my life, you have been integral to those events. You have been in the background of my life, guiding me into the woman, wife, and mother that I am today. Any discussion of who I am, personally and professionally, has to be tied to my relationship with you. You shaped my faith in an unfailing God, my trust in the promise of salvation from the risen Christ, and my desire to minister to the broken.

You were there through all of that, and yet is it any wonder that I and so many others are feeling betrayed? Like the principles we were taught to uphold were never for those teaching us those lessons? Like there were different standards depending on the amount of power one held, or wanted to hold? Like God was only watching those without power and influence?

You taught me about Christian martyrdom and those willing to put everything on the line for their faith, including their own lives. You told me about people in other countries who couldn’t even own a Bible upon penalty of death and then praised the superiority of America because we had “freedom of religion.”

And then, when non-Christian faiths made their December holidays known, you complained about persecution because stores insisted on an all-inclusive “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.”

You taught me that God didn’t see color and that all people were created equal.

READ: Revelation’s Warning About Christian Nationalism

But you failed to teach me the beauty of our differences, that cultures outside of my own should be celebrated with as much admiration as the world in which I felt most comfortable. You ignored the racial sins of the past and instead of repentance and healing claimed that the ends justified the means, regardless of the pain it caused.

You told me that my sexuality was a precious gift to be guarded and protected, making me feel like putting up the guardrail around my body and heart was the most important thing that I could do as a demonstration of my Christian faith.

You didn’t tell me that my worth and the worth of my peers would be tied up in how we related with our partners before and after marriage. You didn’t prepare me for the leaders who would consistently betray their own sexual guidelines. You didn’t tell me that that standard didn’t apply to politically powerful men who could get you what you wanted. 

You told me to be wary of suppressed speech and that I should fight for my First Amendment rights.

You didn’t tell me that you would be the one suppressing my expression of ideas. You didn’t tell me that my questions and concerns about the words of leadership would be met with silence or derision. 

You told me that faith without works was dead, that I should show them I was a Christian by my love.

And then you held up a man who said he didn’t need to ask for repentance for any of his past wrongs because he didn’t see himself as needing to be forgiven. You defended him, made excuses for him, and upheld him as a warrior for Christ, even while I knew that God didn’t need defending. God can defend himself.

And yet through all of this, I haven’t lost my faith in a God who is bigger than all of the above. You taught me that my God “is so big, so strong, and so mighty,” but you seem to have forgotten that “there’s nothing our God cannot do.”

I love the Church not just because you are the institution that has guided me through my life, but because you are the vehicle through which God most frequently speaks to God’s people. Because I understand the importance of Christian fellowship in maintaining and growing my faith and the faith of my family. Because I believe in the strength of a community of believers.

But how can a community of believers maintain that strength if the truth is buried for the sake of power, if the Gospel plays second fiddle to money, and if appearances matter more than the spiritual condition of those coming through the door?

Church, I am one of many begging you to look into the mirror. What do you see? What is staring back? Are you someone that you would want to know? Are you someone that you would want to be in fellowship with? Or are you someone that you would pass by on the street?

Only honest answers will provide the healing that we all need.

About The Author

Sarah Styf is a high school English teacher and mom to two quickly growing kiddos. When she’s not working to balance life as a working mom, she writes about the wonderful complexities of life as a wife, mother, and teacher, as well as her family’s camping adventures, at acceptingtheunexpectedjourney.com. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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