If The Church Went To Hell

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted, but mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!  Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose? How much can you win?”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

If I were to give Christianity a catch phrase, I’d have to quote a title from the wonderfully wise Dr. Seuss:

“Oh The Places You’ll Go!”

Oh, the places I’ve been!  When I told Jesus that I was going to follow Him wherever He would lead me, I never dreamt that I’d end up in prison, I didn’t know that He’d book me on a flight to South Africa, and I never would have thought that I’d be spending my Friday nights making conversation and sharing snacks with women caught up in the prostitution industry.  He led me into the dark places; He led me directly to the spots where no sane person would ever want to venture.  So, call me insane.

When I look back at the life that Jesus lived, I really shouldn’t be surprised.  He didn’t hang out with the “hip and happening” people of His day.  He sought out the loners, the outcasts, and the troubled.  He reached out and touched the dirty, the sick, and the broken.  He ran into the dark places without hesitation; He fought for the ones who didn’t have a voice.  Man, I love that guy.  Then it made me realize, wow, He fought for me too.  That means that I was sick and broken, and in need of some serious help.  With this little nugget of knowledge in mind, my perspective of the world around me began to change.

The unfamiliar didn’t seem so scary anymore.  The world around me didn’t seem as intimidating.  The women in prostitution became my long lost sisters, the boys in prison became my older brothers.  Together we are becoming one, great, big, intercultural, and relatively dysfunctional family.  Perfect love really does cast out fear.  It connects people.  It brings hope and life.  It motivates the soul, stirs the mind, and convicts the heart.

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Everyone comes from somewhere, and we each have our own story written out with twists, turns, setbacks, and failures.  Not one of us can claim the “perfect human” award … but we have a habit of trying to anyways.  Let’s be real, the church especially has a knack for covering up it’s blemishes, scars, and imperfections with legalistic and hypocritical makeup (my two favorites are “Bless Your Heart blush,” and “I No Longer Sin eyeshadow”).  The more make up we put on, the more we appear to be fake. I used to pretend that I had my entire life in order because I was under the assumption that to be a “good Christian” I wasn’t allowed to screw up ever again.  I was in total self-denial about my constant need for my Savior.  The second I started to believe that I didn’t need Jesus anymore, was the second that I forgot the true meaning of the Gospel.  He found me and pulled me out of my dark place, and it is only because of Him that I am still free.

Instead of following Jesus into the dark places, we tend to stay within the comfort of our Christian bubbles.  Jesus is just ahead of us calling our names, but we decide to keep chilling in our cushioned church pews saying, “no thanks Jesus, I’d rather not get my hands dirty because I just got a manicure and the nail polish hasn’t dried yet.”

The church needs to go to hell.  Now, before I get any emails asking if I’ve fallen off the deep end … let me explain what I mean.

There is an undeniable darkness all over the world, and to so many people, those lonely and despairing places can become one’s very own hell.  To the girl who sells her body just to make enough money to buy food for her family, the street corner is her hell.  To the boy who just wanted a family and was forced to murder an innocent to join a gang, the prison cell is his hell.  To the children being abused by their drunken parents every evening after school, walking into the front door is their hell.

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Jesus met people in the dirty places.  He didn’t ask them to get their act together, He didn’t ask for perfection, and He didn’t seek restitution.  He just loved.  So, just as Jesus loved and entered into my messed up situation, I am called to do the same for my neighbor (aka. everyone).

If I continue to get the privilege, I am going to run into those dark places (with wisdom and discernment, of course), and I am going to do my absolute best to love.  I am not going to lecture or judge, and I am definitely not going to condemn (because who am I to point out someone else’s weak spot when I have plenty of my own).  Instead, I will guide the struggling and the lost to the Great Problem Solver, to the Sin Demolisher, and to the Healer of Hurts.  I can’t fix or change the hearts of those around me, but Jesus can.  My only job is to share hope, love, and grace with my fellow homo sapiens.

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Salt is no good if it stays in it’s shaker.  So, if we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, let’s start being salty and shake things up a bit!  (Corny I know, but I couldn’t resist.)

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