Our evangelistic fruitfulness is often hampered by a tendency to align God against the very people we desire to reach for Jesus Christ. Why do we so easily fall into this approach? In my view, it is the fruit of a faith expression that relies too heavily upon warrior spirituality.
In our generation, it is the fruit of faith expressed through culture war. We get it in our minds that the world is going bad and it is up to us to save the world. Pretty soon, our fear turns into frustration, then anger and then opposition against others. Without intending to, our active opposition at some point crosses a line and our witness becomes “God against people.”
This model for responding to our world looks nearly identical to models that drive divorce among spouses and war between nations. We can refer to this culture war model as sibling rivalry: as one brother postured against another.
Our divorce, war and sibling rivalry models all have one common theme: a propensity toward power and control. Power and control are two of the most prized personal possessions that Christ asks us to surrender when we first come to Him at the Cross.
As we rebuild our lives from the Cross, Christ’s humility calls us to continually surrender power and control. This kind of whole-life surrender is intended to be a way of life; not a one-time thing. Jesus cautions that our tendency is to drift from this kind of humility. He says we shift from rocky to sandy soil and soon we’re rebuilding our lives upon weak foundations.
No wonder that when the sand starts to shift we all too easily reach for power and control. Unfortunately, we often cope with this error by calling on “others” to surrender their power and control.
We won’t let go, but we demand that others let go.
Last week, the seemingly secure world of Christian music was rocked by Jennifer Knapp’s announcement that she is a lesbian. CNN reported “Jennifer Knapp comes back and comes out.” This former Christian Dove Award artist checked out of the Christian music scene in 2003. Many wondered how she could disappear at the peak of her career. Rumors spread like fire. In the announcement of her upcoming CD titled “Letting Go,” Knapp announced she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past eight years. The very private Knapp says she came out now to protect evangelicals from blindly purchasing her CD and then feeling “hoodwinked.” Many who have adored her and worshipped God through her music are grieving this revelation.
These kinds of announcements tempt us to reach for power and control. What we really need is to dive — yet again and even deeper — into the biblical version of “letting go.” We need to dive deep into Christ’s humility that beckons us to return to the Cross. At the Cross, we will surrender the temptation to comfort ourselves with power and control. At the Cross, we learn to rest in Jesus Christ in the midst of our broken world. People are, after all, broken. Just like us. At the Cross. we find rest for our souls, strength to follow Christ, and a deep security that He is in control of all these things.
This kind of faith — untethered from power and control — sets us free to redemptively reflect Christ to Knapp and others in the LGBT+ community. An incredible thing happens: when I fully let go of power and control, all temptation to judge others evaporates. I never again have to turn my frustration about this broken world into “God against people.”
In Part II, I will explore Henri Nouwen’s biblical version of “letting go.”