Living in Tension
Richard is leading a series on Sunday mornings right now called Social Justice. He is leading us to discover God’s heart on difficult cultural topics, including the Christian stance toward the LGTB community, immigration and abortion. As we talk about these issues and others as a staff, among our friends and in our homes, it raises many valid questions as we learn to live in tensions of the statutes of our Christian faith.
As we wade through these conversations, we don’t always find common ground. Sometimes, we end up really confused. But, thankfully, God is not confused. The Bible says that “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace,” (1 Cor 14:33). Because of that, we don’t have to camp in the bog of unknowns. We can take our conflicted ideas to Him, and He will give us peace.
I think the church—people who love Jesus—, have answers found in the Holy Spirit who resides within each person in the body. The only way we can discover these precious keys that our culture desperately needs is to listen to God, our own hearts and our brothers and sisters with the intent to understand.
Hearing God through His Word
A good place to start when listening with the intent to understand is the Bible. The Bible does not shy away from difficult topics. It includes instructions on how to treat slaves, specific punishments for rape and murder, stories about incest and so much more (I’m sure that it’s shocking to hear a Children’s Pastor list these words!). If those prickly topics weren’t bad enough, sometimes the teachings and instructions about what to do with these issues can seem opposing!
For example, Paul demands that the church in Corinth not even eat with folks who were in sin. He writes,“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[a] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” 1 Cor 5:11. However, Jesus seems to demonstrate the opposite. Mark writes, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” Mark 2:15.
Was Jesus doing what Paul later exhorted us not to do? I don’t know. It’s tempting for me to try to rationalize the connection between these verses. I think: Maybe we can eat with Christians in sin, if we haven’t confronted them yet. Or, maybe the tax collectors and sinners were exempt because Jesus hadn’t died yet and they technically weren’t “brothers and sisters.” But when I try to live out these instructions and apply them to my life, I quickly find that the tighter my theology, the messier life gets. Instead, in tensions of scripture—like tensions of life—we have to lean into Holy Spirit in each passage for His truth.
One of the best things I’ve ever heard Kris Vallotton, the Associate Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, say was an exhortation to read the Bible every day. He encouraged my First Year School of Supernatural Ministry Class at Bethel to come to the Bible every day with the intent to learn, and not to validate our own thoughts. He said, “Please, just do this every time you open the Bible, say, ‘Holy Spirit, please bless me as I read your word.’” To this day, I do that. Scripture is a story, an instruction book, a prophecy and so much more. It’s a precious gift from an infinite Creator. It makes sense that we would need supernatural help to begin to unlock its guidance, mysteries, and even truth.
So, I encourage you to read the Bible every day and ask Him to “please bless me as I read this.” He will guide you to truth and understanding.
He loves us and longs to shows us how to live, even when faced with difficult seasons such as divorce or the death sentence. All of these decisions can be seen in the Bible and in our culture and effect us all and God does have answers—we just need to learn to listen.
Hear in Relationship
Although it can seem like God really could have made it easier by just writing a quick “Guide to the Universe” for us Christians, the mere fact that He didn’t proves that it’s somehow better this way. Somehow, it’s better for us that we don’t know before each sticky situation exactly what to do, what love looks like or how to honor Him. It’s OK to admit that we don’t always know—because we don’t. He designed us to be in relationship. Knowing Him is the only way to grow.
I love that babies aren’t born knowing basic things like how to walk and move their hands. They learn to walk by watching brothers and sisters, and learn to talk by mimicking their moms and dads.
They grow in relationship with their “creators.” We, God’s children, were made to grow into spiritual maturity in relation with our Creator.
One of the things that hinders this natural relationship between father and child is the idea that we can only come to God when we are perfect and know everything. Thankfully, theology doesn’t help you get closer to God. Jesus makes us right before God and God makes us holy. He wants us to come to Him as we are—even confused or wrong!
Everyone Carries a Revelation
Last year, I remember asking God how to be a “good wife.” This is not an uncommon question for me to ask God and others. But this time, His answer surprised me. He said, “Listen to your husband, and point him to Me.” My relationship with Grant does not require a task list to be completed. There is something so powerful about simply listening, really listening, and then unapologetically pointing him to God.
When I practice “Listen and point to me” with Grant, or others, two things happen: I receive a revelation of God’s heart from them and I give away a revelation of God’s heart that I carry. Hearing each others’ hearts and ideas will help us understand a more complete picture of the love and justice of God.
No one of us carries a full revelation of the Father. We need to see Him through all of the body, young children, new believers, and seasoned warriors of God. And to see Him is to find answers to the things your heart wrestles with the most. Lean into others’ perspectives and journeys on topics, especially if they are different than your own.
It’s OK to live in the tension of unanswered problems, if we continue to listen well. God wants to meet us in this place individually and as a body. I think that if we can learn to search His word openly, listen to our brothers and sisters actively, and share our own hearts honestly, we can really create a new culture at True Life—one that is not dictated by the oftentimes confused world, but rather one that offers the world peace.
My prayer for all of us during Richard’s series and even beyond is that we continue to debate and discuss these topics, and that we listen with the intent to understand God’s heart within ourselves and our family members. I can’t wait to see how Round Rock and Austin will be changed by our conversations about God’s heart for society.