Sometimes Spencer gets to joy of hearing me rant. When things happen in society or around the world or are blasted in the media, I have to process them somehow. And sometimes that means talking through it with Spencer. It normally takes place during long drives in the car and normally involves heavy stuff. He listens with his heart as I pour out my heart about all the things. Thoughts on modern day slavery, sex trafficking, same sex marriage, abortion, Planned Parenthood, the orphan crisis, depression, the government, southern culture, the Church in America, America, the refugee crisis, and so much more, spew out of me in incoherent sentences. He is such a gracious listener and supporter. He helps me process, and he teaches me so much.
I'm such a better communicator in writing. When I'm talking, I stutter and I stumble over my words. That is why I also process best through writing. Whether it is writing in a journal just for the Lord's eyes and mine, or writing on this space in a more public way, writing helps me process, helps me heal, helps me turn off my mind.
When something happens that I need to process, my mind keeps spinning. Thoughts invade it and keep me up all night and take my focus during the day. But once I write them down, my mind is calmed. My heart races a little less and my mind is free to process other things and focus on the needs in front of me. The past few days have left me wide awake at all hours of the night. (That's partly due to battling a cold and a migraine that came out of nowhere and punched me in the head on Sunday, but it also involves all that is happening around the world right now.)
I'm left heartbroken. I'm left in tears often. I'm now just left so confused.
I grieved with Paris as I learned about the news of the attacks. Spencer loves that country and the people there dearly. I was so saddened by the terror they faced. But you aren't allowed to grieve on social media without someone pointing you to another tragedy around the world and passing you some shame for not mentioning every nation facing hardships or people that are hurting.
I wept with the refugees who would face further hardships after the attacks. My heart has been so burdened by their plight and by the lack of care from so many in the West. But you aren't allowed to weep on social media without someone stereotyping a group of people and passing you some political rhetoric about what you're supposed to think.
My confusion and my aching and my tears are about to be poured out here. So forgive me for any incoherence. Please forgive my long post.
I just don't understand.
What makes you a Christian is the grace of God for you to believe the Gospel. The beautiful, amazing, mysterious, gracious and merciful Gospel that Jesus came to Earth as God and as man; He lived a perfectly sinless life; He died on the cross in our place for the forgiveness of our sins (because the penalty of sin is death); He rose from the dead; and He ascended into heaven where He eternally reigns and awaits His second coming when He will establish the New Heaven and New Earth. If you repent and believe in this Gospel, if you trust Jesus as Lord then you are a Christian.
We who call ourselves Christians are first and foremost the People of the Cross. Our primary calling, our life calling, our fundamental calling is to our Savior and His commands. His character and His commands are given to us in His Word.
But at some point, Christianity in America turned into something casual, cultural, comfortable for many. Many have picked which commands they follow and ignored the others claiming they are not longer relevant.
It is by the grace of God alone that we were born where we were born and have all that we have. Why in the world would we claim to be pro-life and then pick and choose which lives to support? Why in the world would we claim to follow the Jesus who told us to pick up our crosses and choose to pick up our country's flag instead? Why in the world would we not use the grace we've been given to be grace to others?
As a Christian, I believe that life is sacred. Every single life is sacred. Pro-life is not just a political position for me. It is the very heartbeat of the God I serve. It carries great significance from conception to the grave and into eternity
When I say that I am pro-life, I am saying I am disgusted by Planned Parenthood and wholeheartedly support defunding it. I am saying that abortion grieves my heart so very much. And pro-life also means standing beside the woman considering abortion and providing help and hope and actual choices.
As a Christian, when I say I am pro-life, I am saying the lives of others matter more than my own. When I say I am pro-life, I'm not necessarily aligning myself with a political party. Clearly.
Where is the candidate who will defund Planned Parenthood, stand up for religious liberty for all, say black lives matter, and welcome refugees? That's who I want to vote for. I know it won't happen because no one will cross party lines to mingle viewpoints. But oh well. That's why there is so much peace in knowing my hope is not in America or in the government.
Christians and America
And that brings me to my next point. I'm a Christian who was born in America. I'm a Christian first. Being an American is way down on the list. Being an American should never overtake being a Christian. And when it does, you have to start asking yourself some very serious questions about your faith.
But man, if you walk into many churches on the week of a national patriotic holiday, you would think their god is America. You would think they worship the red, white, and blue. It has always hurt my heart and made me sick to my stomach to be in a service that does that. I have so much respect and admiration for the tremendously brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving the United States of America. They truly are heroes and deserve so much. My point is not to disrespect anyone who serves whether in office or in the forces. Is there a place to show respect and gratitude for our nation among Christians in America? Absolutely. Without question. Does it belong in a worship service? No. There is only one God and He is worthy of all our worship, praise, and adoration.
The Gospel must be preached in our churches. And that Gospel is from God, not from the government. America doesn't save people's souls, the Gospel does. Democracy doesn't give eternal hope, Jesus Christ does. We can still be thankful and still submit to authority and still respect our leaders, but we absolutely should not put patriotism over theology, politics over community, agendas over love, or the government over the Gospel.
To be honest, I haven't said the pledge in years. Not because I'm a bad citizen or a threat or unpatriotic. But because frankly my allegiance isn't to a flag. My allegiance is to Jesus Christ alone. I love this country and I am so grateful to have been born and raised here. But the United States is not the Kingdom of God. Thank the Lord.
At some point Christians in America have to decide to either align with the God of the Bible and His entire Word, or continue in casual, cultural, comfortable "Christianity." Because if we choose Biblical Christianity, that indeed impacts everything. Biblical Christianity doesn't give us our best life now, but a better life to come. Biblical Christianity doesn't offer ease and comfort and prosperity, but hope and peace and purpose. Biblical Christianity isn't without cost, but the cost of not choosing it is far greater. Biblical Christianity isn't about proudly waving our country's flag, it is about picking up our crosses and persevering hard after Christ.
Christians in America should not be defined by a political party. Christians in America should stand out for their unwavering dedication to the Gospel, their commitment to serve their communities, their intense and sacrificial love, their extravagant generosity, their joyful and grateful hearts, their captivating unity and beautiful diversity.
So as the Church in America, let's just make sure we seek truth from the Word before looking to government officials for what our stance on current issues should be. Let's spend more time on our knees before the Lord than scrolling through social media or watching the news. Let's investigate our hearts to see what or who our object of worship truly is.
When we begin to soak our lives in the Word, in prayer, in Christian community, in a Gospel centered Church, the only option is to constantly be amazed by grace. When Grace collides with your life, there is only the option to live with tremendous gratitude and joy. The only option is to share it. When you see the grace given to you, the only option is to extravagantly give so that you can be grace to others.
There is no reason besides grace that we were born where we were born and live when we live. We are the richest people to ever walk the face of the earth. We have hotels for our dogs and stores for our dolls. We feed our pets better than what people eat around the world and we house our stuff (in things we call storage units) better than how people live around the world.
I totally understand not feeling rich. We live on one teacher salary. We have crazy student loans to pay back. We haven't had a vacation and don't do many things other people do. I could continue naming several other things that would make us seem like we don't have much money. And compared to much of America, we don't. But you know what? We are still super rich and super educated. So on those days when I start to worry or start to wonder if we can pay a bill, the Lord gives me some perspective and reminds me that He has given us so very much. The minute I start to lose perspective is the minute I start to become ungrateful. And when I become ungrateful, I stop giving. And when I stop giving, I spreading hope. And when I stop spreading hope, I stop pointing a lost world to Jesus.
We have been given grace in order to be grace to others. We have been given much in order to give to others generously. We have been loved by God in order to love others liberally.
So I realize the government and the Church have two different purposes. And I realize the refugee crisis is extremely complex. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes. The government is intended to protect its citizens. But it is also essential to get the facts and to use the abundant resources of the nation to help. The threat of ISIS is real. But the refugee crisis is also very real.
I've seen some crazy things on the internet. (Imagine that!) Someone posted that not letting refugees in is like locking our doors at night; we lock our doors because we love those inside. And I get that. I mean, we lock our doors at night. But that isn't what's happening. No one is barging into your home. This is more like if hundreds of people are standing outside your gated neighborhood pleading to just come into the gate because people are coming to rape, slaughter, and terrorize them. Do you let them in the gate? Or do you stay in your locked home pretending you can't hear their cries? Because let's be honest, even if these 10,000 refugees come into our nation, it will take time. And you probably won't even know they are there. The process is long and hard. I mean 1,000 people a month are moving to Nashville. I think it's somewhere near 1,000 people a day move to Florida. 10,000 people scattered around the country won't be noticeable to the majority of Americans going about their daily lives. And after the process, assimilation is very hard. I'm sure there are refugees somewhere in a city near you. But most people, even most Christians, stay on their side of town and don't get to know their neighbors. So if a couple of refugee families move to a community of refugees near you, I sadly doubt most will notice.
But I totally understand the fear. For someone who struggles greatly with fear, I get it. I get the fear. But fear cannot dictate my actions. I cannot let fear control me. I have to choose to see others with the eyes of Christ and not through a lens of fear. I'm continually learning that love casts out fear. I'm learning that love is worth risk. Because when there are risks, love means so much more. I'm learning to take Jesus at His word and know that He is with me. His commands to not be afraid are grounded in the promises of His presence.
I say all that to say, this is complicated and simple all together. It is complicated in the logistics and in the politics of it all. It is simple in what we can do. Because whatever the government decides to do shouldn't affect the response from the Church.
We are called to love, to serve, to give.
We are so incredibly rich, so we can extravagantly give to those serving the refugees where they are. We must extravagantly and generously and sacrifically give. No matter what happens or what the government does or doesn't do, we will still be held accountable for our action or inaction. We will still have to answer to Jesus for how we used what He entrusted to us.
I'm just so confused as to why the organizations who are on the front lines serving the refugees aren't being given much more. If we don't give, who will? Why is the news not filling with stories about millions upon millions of dollars being donated to help the refugee crisis? Why do we think we deserve better than they? How in the world do we think we've done anything to deserve the grace we've been given? How did we turn grace into something for only a few when God intended to lavishly pour it out through us? Why aren't more caring for the refugee communities already around them?
It is time, past time, for the Church to rise up. Let's show the world Jesus by the way we abundantly give and serve in this time of great need. Let's lay aside our desires, our wants, even our needs, for those who have faced hell on earth. Because they should get a much bigger taste of heaven. And as the Church, we can do that. Because we have been greatly blessed, we can shower others with blessings. Because we have been given grace, we can be grace to others.
It is my desperate prayer that the Church would rise up during this historic time and reflect Jesus to this hurting world. May we see with the eyes of Jesus, love with the heart of Jesus, serve with the hands of Jesus, go with the feet of Jesus. And let's do it all for the glory and fame of Jesus.
Sarah loves Jesus and her family and is passionate about addressing the urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world. She is the wife of Spencer and mama of Katherine and Claire, and they live in Nashville, TN. She runs a photography business with her husband and writes in order to offer encouragement and invite others to choose grace, joy, and gratitude in the adventure and the mundane. She loves traveling and reading; she will choose unsweet tea over sweet and bootcut jeans over skinny; and she is all sorts of awkward with small talk but thrives with deep conversations.