Apology, Poverty and the Evangelical

It’s Wednesday and I have the day off. I led a youth retreat this weekend called Fall Forward. One girl put her faith and trust in Jesus for the first time. That’s why I do what I do. It was a great weekend, but retreats always exhaust me. On Sunday afternoon, after we returned, I lay down at 4:30 to “take a nap.” The next time I woke up was 3:00 AM the next day. A long weekend, that’s why I have the day off.

I spent part of the day watching the movie Blue Like Jazz about Donald Miller, the author of a book with the same title as the movie. I felt sad when it showed him at Reed College surrounded by eccentric people who believed the opposite of his faith in Christ. I asked myself, “Did I ever open my life to such vast differences? Have I ever truly experienced life this way as to test my faith as genuine?” I felt sad for awhile because I thought I hadn’t. Then I remembered Israel. My year in Israel opened me to people whose beliefs challenged my faith. Even the geography, and rocks, and archaeological remains challenged my faith. They said, “See, Jesus really was a real person. Look, he stayed in that house, peed around that corner, washed in that bath, walked over there. Maybe he was just a person… and not God.”

It took me several months back in the States, and several broken friendships because of my bitter confused grumpy faithless attitude until my faith was made sure once again. Even now there are pings of doubt. Israel was my Reed.

The movie also made me realize that Evangelical Christians don’t deserve a platform among sophisticated unbelievers until we’ve put our own arms around and sacrificially served the poor. And we probably won’t be heard until we’ve apologized for the sins of Christendom.

Anyone who does evil does not represent God, even if they do what they do in his name. Unbelievers don’t know that because they don’t know the good God of the universe who sent his Son for his enemies. And so we Evangelicals bear the sins of those who sinned in God’s name in every century. We didn’t ask for this burden, but unbelievers are happy to give it to us. Furthermore, to live pretending we don’t carry it, or complaining that it isn’t fair isn’t going to change reality, and it’s not going to save souls.

What I learned today is that Evangelicals will be irrelevant until they serve the poor, and until they apologize. In other words, we have to be — I have to be — humble.

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