Today I want to focus on an important question: How do we respond with love when we feel that the Gospel is being distorted?
The question was inspired by an email I recently received from reader. She is a recent Christian College graduate, and from what I can tell, an intelligent and compassionate young woman. Here are some excerpts from her message to me:
I'm emailing you because I have a really hard time reading your blog. I rarely make it through two posts in a row, but not for the same reasons I might have had this problem a year ago.
I struggle with it because I find myself so frustrated with many of the same things that frustrate you. I have read your blogs and agreed in the past. The difference is, perhaps, that I've never owned the questions before. I've never been a skeptic, never been disillusioned with the Church or Christianity like I am now, and I've never struggled with cynicism about the Christian culture, so it all feels new and foreign and terrifying, like I don't know where this is coming from or who I am becoming in the process.
…I get so angry at how we treat people we disagree with and how close friends/family of mine would treat you in knowing you accept evolution. It's difficult because the post about Piper made me cry with frustration and long for the days when I read Desiring God with all the innocence and devoutness of an un-jaded 15 year old. I just get so frustrated with the bad sermons and harsh teaching and misguided theology and misplaced passion that I see all around me. I even get frustrated that I call it "misguided theology" when I don't have a Bible degree, so who am I to say?
…I don't know what to do with my frustration, with my anger, with the intense emotion that springs to my eyes when I see mostly well-meaning Christians proclaiming the "truth" of Jesus which I often feel is almost a false Gospel, when I feel the censure of conservatives (wait, aren't I still a conservative? what happened?) and when I empathize with the alienated followers of Christ who don't look like everybody else. I even found myself struggling with attending church - and I've always loved church!
I guess I don't feel like I can go around and speak about Jesus and what relationship with God is all about because the more I see people who seem to "get it wrong" and who have good hearts but bad theology, good intentions and bad expressions of love....the more I become afraid that I will just become part of the problem and not the solution. I know that is putting far too much weight on my own responsibility and not recognizing the sovereignty of God and the grace that He allows us to receive and express...but it still scares the hell out of me.
I know God is sovereign, but we do damage people by our misrepresentations of His gospel and of the scandalous grace that is our lifeblood. I don't think my response is going to be silence--I don't think I could do that--but I don't want to respond by getting "stuck in cynicism" or becoming a destructive rather than constructive voice in the sphere I am in. But I have to do something with this crazy strong emotion --that urge to stand up in the middle of a sermon and contradict the pastor--that I can't seem to dismiss or deny.
How would you respond to this reader? How do we react CONSTRUCTIVELY when we feel the Gospel is being distorted by people in the Christian culture? Where do you turn when you are feeling strong emotions like these?
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