Tag: people

Conservative Christian, I Beg Of You, Why Can’t Love Be Enough?

Why don’t people go to Church?

Why do many cringe at modern Christianity with their gag reflexes in full bloom?

Why are conservative brands of faith losing so much of their credibility and influence?

Do we really want to know—could we handle the truth—would we even listen to their reason?

It’s not because of some kind inherent distaste for Jesus and a rejection of His Truth. It’s not from a deep dark cultural stronghold of apathetic spiritual laziness. It’s not because of some depraved aversion to God and holiness rampant within society. We may wish it were all so easily wrapped up and reasoned away with the simple declaration that the “world” is showing itself to be as hopelessly lost, blind, wayward, and carnal as we deem them to be—but they aren’t.

In fact, the Light God has placed within all people shines into the religious darkness of our day, revealing a disturbing manifestation humanity can’t ignore—the reckless tampering and deep distrust of Love within conservative Christianity. For all of our spiritual fanfare, many rightfully discern that something is deeply askew among us, and though they may not always be able to put their finger on it, they can’t shake the unsettling in their spirit. The one place, the one people with whom love should boldly rule the day, be adored in all its splendor, and lifted high up above all things, is among Christians. Yet, the loudest confession heard around the world from the megaphone of conservative Christianity is sadly this—”Love isn’t enough.”

Try as we might to frantically plaster heaping loads of lipstick upon the pig of our conservative brand of Christianity, people aren’t stupid. The Judas that is conservative Christianity has sold out Love in exchange for power, betrayed Grace with the kiss of control, and crucified it all into a self-righteous religion for the privileged—daring to pimp it as the one true authentic way of Jesus.

Instead of being unified by love and that being enough, we insist on gathering in cookie-cutter groups of like-minded people corralled together by a laundry list of beliefs, values, and vision we must agree upon to have membership, relationship, and community with one another. Love takes a back seat (if a seat at all) and must first yield to our creeds instead of our creeds first yielding to Love. Hollow Churches of fake unity span the horizon as far as the eyes can see—people resign themselves to going through the motions and agreeing on the surface in order to fit in and meet expectations. Love doesn’t rule in our churches, rules rule in our churches. Compliance, conformity, conditions—everything but Love. Spiritual growth is restricted and restrained—coloring outside the lines of conservative ideology is shamed, even if just for a season. Where Jesus wants to build longer tables where every creed, orientation, gender, belief, color, status, shape, and nationality has a seat, we build taller walls of every spiritual, relational, and physical dimension and try to sell it to the world as true community.

Instead of simply loving people and that being enough, we treat them as projects—a spiritual notch for our religious belts. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we not only have the calling but the capacity to change people, even ourselves. What only the Spirit can do, we have hijacked into our own personal and corporate mission. The truth is, we don’t trust the Spirit, nor Grace, nor Love to do what only the Spirit, Grace, and Love can do—quite the opposite. Rather, in order to legitimize our own efforts and justify our fleshly interventions, we declare pure Grace to be cheap, unconditional Love to be dangerous, and the Spirit needing our involvement. While Jesus’ greatest concern is that people get more than enough love and believe in it completely, our greatest fear is that we would grant too much of it and cause people to trust it too deeply. You say that God loves me where I’m at, but enough not to leave me there—which is of course, where you see the beginning of your mission to try and fix me. I say, God loves me enough that He doesn’t need you to repair, change, confront, or direct me—His Grace is sufficient, His Spirit fully capable, and His Love is more than enough to do the trick—with or without you. See, that’s the real kicker, isn’t it? For if God ever did use you in another’s life to help in the molding, it would be through the fruits of the Spirit not the nails, crosses, proof-texts, and conditions of your conservative methodology. Why? Because I, like everyone else, am a divinely made person not a church mission project.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore our unity could be founded not on a contrived fabricated alignment of ambition, thinking, and believing, but on a genuine willingness to agree to disagree and embrace our differences—all at the table.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the everything of what we had in common was our mutual respect of all people of all faiths, backgrounds, and settings as created and divinely imaged by God Himself no less than we or anyone else—no more discrimination, marginalization, or people-judging.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people of genuine equality, where everyone is beautifully different, and beautifully no better or worthy—no more one-upping, privilege-seeking, or people-labeling.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore the Spirit was given full trust and freedom to work in the hearts, minds, and souls of people as we simply loved them unconditionally—no more strings attached, fine-print, deal-breakers, or hidden expectations.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore loving people (beginning with ourselves) was the only “to do” if there ever needed to be a list—no more people-policing, sin-managing, fruit-inspecting, God-appeasing, faith-proving, self-improving, or becoming all-you-can-be for Jesus.

Imagine if Christianity became a faith where love is enough, and therefore we became a people best known by “the greatest of these is love” instead of “the greatest of these is us”—no more violence, condemnation, and insisting on our own way.

For sadly, we have made Jesus into so much of everything He is not and following Him into such a tiring, empty, phony, love-less, and selfish pursuit. If only we could see what we have become and the people who are dying on our vines, destroyed at the feet of our conservatism. The shade we throw at the world is scorching good people, nailing Jesus back upon the cross, and declaring to the planet, “Love doesn’t win, Grace isn’t sufficient, and Hell is the heart of the Father for people who don’t love Him back in return.”

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, why can’t love be enough?

Why can’t love be enough as the sum and singular message of the Gospel of Jesus?

Why can’t love be enough to bring us together and graft us into authentic community?

Why can’t love be enough to fulfill and maximize our divine responsibility and care for people?

Why can’t love be enough to make our worship attractive, churches deemed as successful, and our faith relevant?

Why can’t love be enough to drive our aspirations and quench our thirst for significance?

Why can’t love be enough to guide our exegesis, calibrate our theologies, and dictate our use of the Scriptures?

Why can’t love be enough for those with whom we disagree, believe to be sinning, or even show themselves to be an enemy?

Do we really need all this other stuff? Nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, selfishness, and elitism? Bible-weaponizing debates, clubs with crosses on top, and a gun-carrying, militant, Republican version of Jesus who feeds the multitudes but denies healthcare to the hundreds of thousands?

Is this truly the heart and way of Jesus?

I just want to love God, myself, and people without restriction, conditions, or limits. I want to be free to journey with Jesus, fully abandoned to where His Grace might take me. I want to experience the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction of a life lived outside the confines, condemnations, and religious rule-keeping of religion.

With a world watching, waiting, and carefully listening to the beat of our hearts in hopes of seeing Jesus.

Conservative Christian, I beg of you, for the sake of heaven and all humanity, why can’t love be enough?

Why. Can’t. Love. Be. Enough?

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Loving The World Into Change

Don’t say you don’t need it. Don’t say it doesn’t matter.

There’s no hiding from it.

It’s at the heart of everything about you. Your pulse, your movement, your thinking. It’s the stirrings inside of you. What awakens your sleep, what captivates your captivations. It’s the poetry in your poem, the magical of your imagination, the strength beneath your sweat.

It’s love.

You’ll never find a forward step, a rush of hope, a cavern crossed, apart from love. You know you need it, you know you desire it. Like shining is to the sun.

When something is missing, it’s what’s missing. The lump in the throat, the gasping for breath, the cry from deep waters.

Love, the presence of. Love, the absence of. It’s everything.

There is no other way, but love. None.

Search the skies, the universe expanse. Look under here, look under there. Fasten the knife upon your belt, the gates around your heart. Take up arms, growl your threats, sabotage from within the shadows. Poison a cocktail, if you please.

But, nothing good ever came apart from love. No healing, no dream, no redemption, no turning the corner.

Nothing is impossible when love is the answer.

Search your footprints, every step upon your path. Love made you. Love has changed you, the only thing that’s changed you, for good.

So, please, please I beg you.

For heaven’s sake, for your sake. We must come back to love. Time is running out. The clock is ticking. The world is dying. Don’t say you don’t see it, don’t say you don’t feel it. Around you, within you.

How is that hate working for you? How are the silent treatments working for you? The false medications, the distance creations. The unforgiveness, the trust resistance.

How’s that working for you? The pimping of a dream that’s really a scheme. It’s all about you. Fame, fortune, sucking on the applause of others to convince yourself of what you are not convinced… that you are loved, lovable.

Do tell… how’s that working for you? Drawing the lines, placing the labels. Assigning people into the margins of your brain. In, out, somewhere in between. Friend, enemy. How’s that working for you? Muslim, Jew, black, white, conservative, progressive, gay, straight, rich, poor, terrorist, peace-maker.

I say, who gives a rip? Love for Christ’s sake! Love. Without restraint, without condition, without question… your sole ambition.

Do it. Be free. Untie the ropes. It’s love.

The essence of God, and all this is good. You can’t go wrong with love. You can’t do it.

Nothing is impossible when love is the answer.

If the world is going to change, it will be because we loved it into change.

How?

Start with the history of people, particularly of your enemy. 

We are a complicated people, who at times, punch at the very things we need the most. Standing in the right, standing in the wrong. We all have the twitches, scars, the vulnerabilities. Blind spots, personalities, all intermixed. Rages, passions, deep within. Kicking, screaming. Longing to love, and be loved in return.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Love means making a thorough understanding of the histories of those we want to be history. There is no compassion without understanding, and no understanding without love.

Love, is the history examiner, the back-story investigator, the benefit-of-the-doubt giver.

We cannot change people without understanding the history that changed them. Applying love, where none was given.

Love the difference of people.

For who among us is not different in some way? Who of us can claim perfect togetherness with anyone?

The unity of love is in our willingness to love within differences. Shades of grey.

There is humanity within every human, we must find it and hold onto it. Cherish it, unshackle it to the surface. This is the quest of love, to dig deep into everyone. There is an image in which we have all been created. A Person into which, we have all been recreated.

We are not our differences, we are all, reflections of the Father, manifestations of the Son. All together, different. Beautiful, glorious, magnificent.

God is so much bigger than we, and how we might be separate. Expressing Himself, giving Himself, living Himself in all of it.

What God intends, should not leave us intimidated… that we are different. All of us.

For we cannot be the difference without a love of our differences.

Love is the great influencer, the great affirmer.

How do change anyone, I ask you? An enemy, an author of injustice. A violent perpetrator of evil. Or how about the selfish, the greedy, the scheming schemers.

How do you change anyone? The wrong, the misguided, the speakers of untruth. The disagreeing, the dissenting, the rebels, addicted to their youth.

How do you do it? With rules, guilt, punishment, politics, religion? Fear, shame, intimidation, some faith decision? Weapons fired, love withheld, life restricted, hope taken, body imprisoned?

How do you change anyone, for good?

“For the Grace of God teaches us to live rightly…” Titus 2:12

Grace is the vibration made when God touches you. God who is love, who loves you. Everything about you. Affirming, delighting in, all of creation.

There is no other touch from God than Grace. And Grace, the only thing that changed anything or anyone, for good.

And here in lies the scandal. That you have been changed, already. Even though you may not know it, or believe it.

You are the beauty of Jesus, the love of the Father, the change God is bringing to the world.

It is you. You are the love.

The beauty, the change. Awaken to you.

Nothing changes until you love from the love that you are.

Wrestling down, hugging even when it hurts, awakening one heart at a time… to love.

There is no other way. None.

Be the beauty, the change, the love you already are…

…loving the the world into change.

This is the way, the only way it’s done.

Loving the world, your world, into change.

Out of the Closet, Into the Cold : Life after Coming Out as a Gay Loving, Homosexual Affirming Pastor

As I write, it’s been a mere two weeks since I gave a message and wrote a blog post where in both, I “came out” as a gay loving, homosexual affirming pastor to my church, friends, and family. No big deal, right?

Honestly, I never quite imagined the kind of responses I would receive, each one walking me further along the tip of the iceberg of what one must surely experience when “coming out” as a gay person in our culture today. Perhaps I should have know, but who could really? I will tell you this, my perspective on what it can look like to “come out” as a gay person in America has forever expanded with disturbing awareness. The handling of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Christians has become no less than the new racism of the 21st century.

Just shy of death threats, which are probably not far around the corner for me, even as a front-line, controversial Christian writer and pastor, I have been shocked at the negative and hurtful responses from some. Even more disturbing is the calculative results that conclude all the hateful, vial responses have come exclusively from Christians, the very people who profess Jesus as the model for their life.

I prepped our church weeks before that Sunday, and even tipped my hand to the cards I was going to play in addressing more specifically the issue of homosexuality, hoping to ease us further into the waters that I had already increasingly tipped our toes into from the very beginning of the formation of our ministry. On that day, a few chose to not listen or even consider my teaching before I could even teach it, opting out of attendance. Among those, there was a stated fear of receiving new information that could potentially change their mind, others among them just walked away… no words, no communication, no nothing. People who had journeyed close by my side for some time, left it, without a sound, statement, or blink of an eye. The relationship in the end perhaps became disposable or just too difficult.  It was clear that some who came, already formed their conclusions, but went through the motions of being present before quickly telling me of their no longer future presence; of course, through a text or email.

I understand, I really do, this is a complicated issue. There are a lot of strings and traps attached. I have been on the other side of the fence. I get it. It’s a tough issue, it takes time. I hold nothing against. Same love, same respect.

I never asked anyone to agree and repeatedly communicated that one of the defining values we have as a church is that our unity is not based on us all agreeing upon a certain set of beliefs, but on our willingness to agree to disagree and yet have the maturity, tolerance, and humility to still love, respect, and do life and ministry together from a foundation of Grace. Our church is purposed on being less of a church and more of a table, where everyone has a seat in the conversation, the life, the relationships, and the feasting on the Grace of Jesus.

For some, this unique church ethos is a fresh wind of hope and delight they never knew could exist. For many, they are thinking, deconstructing, and reexamining their faith, asking the ultimate question of their biblical understanding, “have I read this right?” All, while still seated, connected, loving, respecting, serving, and experiencing authentic, spiritual community. Many our clapping on the insides with overflowing enthusiasm, others are giving Christianity another chance as they find this compassion, courage, unique church culture, and revelation of scripture something of the miraculous.

It is truly a beautiful thing.

Outside of church, there has been the silent treatment. People I always heard from, going unheard from. Glares, non-verbals of disappointment. The unspoken, yet clearly heard voices of shame. Others communicating their disagreement openly and respectfully, others, not so much. Waves of de-friending, all from… Christians.

I truly admire those who disagree with my perspective on the issues, yet still pledge their love, friendship, conversation and desire to stay by my side. They refuse to let their stance on the issues usurp their stance “with” me. In the same spirit that Jesus died for the ungodly, they are willing to stand with what they perceive is unbiblical and perhaps ungodly… me. Not from a condescending spirit, but from one of unconditional love, togetherness, and respect. This, I deeply treasure and joyfully extend as it’s been extended to me.

Some are more passive aggressive. Disagreeing on the inside, and acting on their disagreements in the shadows. Murmuring, chattering, making me pay subtly, behind the scenes, all the stuff you remember from middle school, now on display in adulthood. Precious, isn’t it?

And this, just “coming out” as one who simply affirms and loves someone and something certain people are against. I can’t imagine “coming out” as actually being a gay person, as hard as it has been for me in just affirming them. Holy crap, batman.

Yet, I wouldn’t trade it all for the conversations I have had with people who are gay or have family members who are gay. One person could barely control the speed of their words as their excitement couldn’t be restrained in finally having a pastor to talk with who understood and supported.

Tasting and seeing, breathing for the first time. Resurrected to life. One after the other.

I wouldn’t trade it all for the atheists, the skeptics, the undecideds, the “done’s” who are actually finding new faith or a faith restored because of this courageous, compassionate, conversational, free, humble, serving, unconditional loving, Grace flowing flavor of Christianity and “church.”  The original, the pure Gospel in flesh, and fleshed out, right before their eyes.

I wouldn’t trade it for all the friends who have shown themselves to be true friends. Who when the shit hit the fan, they stood with me and took it, and are taking it, boldly and even cheerfully. Some with even a Jesus-crazy, Grace-intoxicated smile on their face as if to say, “bring it on, you bastards.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the after-Sunday-service hug of my sixteen year old, heterosexual son, who had never quite hugged me that hard while speaking into my ear, “Great job dad, I am so proud of you.”

I wouldn’t trade it for the peace I have, and the sense of fully realizing the heart of Jesus in me and through me as I boldly and unapologetically love, affirm, and defend homosexual people and their families everywhere.

I will not stop. I will not be silent.

It may be cold…but this cold cannot touch the fire from above and from within.

I will fight as long as it takes, and I have breathes to take.

Scaffolding And The Art of Building

Whether it’s building relationships, a team, a new business, or a new church, there is a certain process that takes place in doing so.  Understanding this overall process is extremely interesting and beneficial in many regards.

Recently, I watched a program on the special dynamics and ins-and-outs of constructing a very large skyscraper in China. It was interesting to learn that at the foundational level of the building, the workers primarily used scaffolding as the main method of building from the ground up.

Scaffolding itself must be constructed to enable the building of the actual building. It’s an important tool and step in the process. The scaffolding goes up quickly and easily, allowing the work of building to move forward.  From a distance, the scaffolding can be so extensive and prominent that it’s hard to see the actual building that’s being put together. At certain moments, it’s even easy to visually confuse the scaffolding with what is actually the building.

Scaffolding, as important and valuable as it is, is not permanent nor the actual building. At some point, the scaffolding must be removed for work to continue, and at higher levels, scaffolding is rarely used at all.  As the scaffolding is removed, the real building is revealed. At first it seems a bit naked, smaller, and vulnerable, but the real building is finally revealed and further construction is enabled to move forward.

What’s interesting is that whether it be in building a skyscraper, relationships, a team of players, or a church, there are people who turn out to be the “building” and those who turn out to be the “scaffolding.” There are some who serve a more temporary role like scaffolding, and those who serve a more permanent role, like the actual building.

Neither one is necessarily better than the other, just different.

What’s important is to understand that not everybody in your relationship life, team, or as you build a church (or business) is going to be permanent kind of people. Second, when the scaffolding type of people distance themselves, fall away, or move onto others things, it’s important to understand that 1) it’s part of the building process 2) it feels uncomfortable, weird, and even hurts when it happens 3) it looks like things are moving backward when in fact things are moving forward 4) it better exposes and reveals who the building type people are in your life, team, business venture or church plant.

When the scaffolding type people come and go in your life, try to resist taking it personally and even trying to explain their temporary stay. Scaffolding people serve an important role and purpose in your life, team, business, or church plant. Enjoy their presence, praise their value, and celebrate them when they move on, as much as possible. However, try not to be too surprised when scaffolding type people do what all scaffolding people do (often sooner than later)… move on.

Furthermore, appreciate the builders that become revealed as the scaffolding detaches. Nurture them, thank them, invest in them, and inspire them as you build the future with them.  These are the people who are truly “with” you, the life long friendships, the team players who will be their through the winning and losing seasons no matter what. These are the people you build with and build upon. These are the ones you draw closer and allow more influence in your life, business, team, or church plant.

As God builds your relationship life, business, team, or church plant, He will use different people in different types of ways. Trust God to show the differences.

Happy building!

Stupid Stuff We Believe

Sometimes it isn’t until we hear ourselves say it, or read it on a page that we realize just how stupid some of the things we believe truly are. These are the kind of things we hate to admit, and would probably never say out loud, but we really do believe them in our hearts.

Take a look at the list below at some of the stupid stuff we secrety believe. We would never tell anyone to believe these things, yet we do so everyday.

1- If 10 people compliment you about something, you should really listen more to the 1 person who criticizes you about it.

2- When you don’t always please the people around you, you are not as good of a person as you should be.

3- You need to have it all figured out before you start anything new in your life.

4- God loves you, but sometimes He is disappointed with you, shaking His head with frustration.

5- Someday you will be happy, once things come together or you find the right person.

6- You need your children to like you in order to feel good as a parent.

7- You need to punish yourself or alteast keep yourself from being too happy because of the mistakes you have made in your life.

8- You can change them

9- The more people value you, love you, and think well of you, the more valuable, loveable, and likeable you really are.

10- Jesus mainly wants you to be really upset about your sin, get your butt to church, clean up your act, and do more good than bad.

Which of these do you believe deep down?
What would you add to this list?

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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