January 17, 2005

On Campus, Conservatives Talk Back

article. worth your time. read.

Posted by jonsligh at 02:24 PM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2005

church of the losers

Last night I drove past the coffeeshops and the 40-story corporate buildings into the heart of town. The paint on the buildings peeled and the graffiti grew like rapidly spreading mildew the deeper I got into west Greenville. I don’t often come to this side of town. White middle-class churches and ghettoes don’t mix well.

If I closed my eyes I could almost imagine Creation groaning in a town where multi-million dollar church buildings get built as far away as possible from the sinners whose scars are a bit more obvious to us all. In a town where where Christians feebly attempted to cover their deep-rooted racism with sanctified fig leaves, fig leaves that hindsight revealed to be horribly incapable at covering the nakedness of their wearers. I am, after all, in the South, where the name of the Prince of Peace has been dragged through the mud by Christians who didn’t equate “there is neither Jew nor Greek” with “there is neither black nor white.”

I pulled into the parking lot of the United Ministries headquarters where a small group of believers would be gathering. After doublechecking the locks I headed inside. Walking in I interrupted a huge black man delivering a sermon. He and the congregation welcomed me before he turned back to his sermon. As I scurried to the back of the room I eyed the congregation, an even mix of black and white.

When he finished he called woman from the congregation to the front of the room. She studied the floor as she walked quietly to the front of the room. The pastor introduced us all to Joy, a new Christian. We knew her past before he told us. We knew from the tears streaming down her face, from her bedraggled appearance, from the premature aging caused by years of drug abuse, from the side of town we were in, from the long sleeves she wore in an inadequate attempt to hide the track marks on her arms. We burst into thunderous applause when the pastor told us that her past was now forgiven. Joy wanted to leave her sin behind her to follow a man named Jesus. She had been clean for several days now. She was living with a couple from the church, someone who had dispensed with the usual “be ye warmed and filled” advice and had tackled the rather dirty task of proactivley loving a Fall-wrecked sinner.

“Let’s pray,” the pastor whispered, and slowly we rose. We all stood very still and very quietly, a roomful of recovering sin addicts, each confessing his lifelong love affair with sin. And amidst much praying and singing and crying we confessed to doing what we were best at doing, at covering our scars with a few inadequate fig leaves. We each knew that Creation groans under the burden of a sinful race. We each knew that the sin we held so dear, our racism and our snootiness and our lust and our addictions and our self-aggrandizement and our pride, was the cause of it all. A collective sigh from a handful of home-bound prodigal sons and daughters rose to the foot of the throne of God. To the throne of a God who doesn’t leave us to the effects of our sin, who didn’t crush mutinous mankind the moment a rebel flag was raised, who doesn’t give up on drug addicts or sex addicts or pride addicts. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is unity. The kind of unity that makes Pharisees, crackheads, perverts, and rebels gather to pray and repent and love.

Posted by jonsligh at 10:36 PM | Comments (9)

January 06, 2005

490 times and still counting

Well, the world, the flesh, and the devil have been whupped. But the losers keep on fighting, and I've taken a trouncing. I wish it were all different, deep down inside, the part of me that chooses fantasy over reality. I secretly harbor the belief that I'd rather be a martyr than a race-finisher. I'd rather be a Stephen than a Paul. I'd rather be a Jim Elliot than a David Livingston. I'd rather go out in a blaze of glory than stay here as a small light in a very dark world. Perhaps a literal cross is easier to bear than a figurative one, because you have to carry the figurative one more than a few hours. A quick death would spare me a life of death to self. The honor of heroic martyrdom looks far more appealing than the humiliation of the sin that so easily besets us.

What I want is a quick way out. I used to look for it in campfire services and long invitations. Walk the aise, throw the stick in the fire, and the struggle's over. But alas, life has a way of smacking you in the face with cold hard reality. One finds out soon enough that pride and hypocrisy and lust and hatred and bitter sarcasm and deceit and indolence don't get burned away with the stick you threw in the campfire. Aisle-walkers and leaders and sinners and mentors are all falling with me. There is no quick and easy way to escape the melee.

My only hope is that I can run back to the prodigal's Father, and again, and again. The God who made me out of dirt to live a life of praise has born my shame after I jumped right back into the miry clay. He makes all things new. I make all things dirty. But He sees me through His Son, pure and clean and holy--all the things my heart isn't.

So praise the God who saves. Praise the God who pardons repeat offenders. Praise the God who conquered the enemy and then forgives us when the enemy still conquers us.

Posted by jonsligh at 08:00 AM | Comments (7)