The question on the test was "How are we saved?"
If you answered "by grace" you got 100%. Every word you added took off points, such as "by grace through faith" 95%. My husband was at Dallas Theological Seminary at the time and the take away from this was powerful. We are saved by grace.
Recently my leadership team received a message from a woman who wanted to let us know that she couldn't be involved in anything we are offering because Jen Hatmaker is one of our speakers for Brave On. Last year I had several women let me know they couldn't participate in Brave On because Sarah Bessey was one of our speakers. Unfortunately, these communications often come with concern over our theology and where we may be straying from "sound doctrine."
I am well acquainted with the narrative in the church that requires we be against things. I was nurtured and equipped to identify the "other" and build my case for why they were missing the mark, walking in sin, straying, or backsliding. The conclusions I reached demanded action, confrontation and subsequent exclusion if proper corrective action was not strictly followed.
I remain grieved today about times I know I left young adults in my care feeling rejected, judged and abandoned by me from this posture of rightness.
Grace unites us, everything that comes after that divides us. All the words that come next facilitate the process of sifting and judging. Setting up our rules, our dogma, our personal preferences for what it looks like to walk in Christ.
Beyond the grace that saves us we are each free to choose. Choose your personal preference, the doctrine of Arminianism , or Calvinism, be Charismatic, be Baptist, be Lutheran or Catholic or any number of other denominational choices. Why is it that in the midst of exercising our personal preference we also must judge and bring our power against anyone who doesn't share in that preference? Do we actually believe we are safe guarding the gospel or growing the Kingdom of God? I don't see judgement and exclusion as safeguarding or growing God's Kingdom.
You love Jesus, you believe He died to provide salvation for us. Awesome. We share that in common, how good is that!
As I age I continue to discover that I know less and less and my curiosity continues to grow more and more, I believe this is the nature of wisdom.
Many things I stood "against" in my twenties and thirties are now part of my daily life. Things I was so sure were the "right" or the "best" have proven to be flawed, everything from people to organizations, to books and programs.
My arms are more open, my table longer, my heart more expansive. There is much I do not know. But one thing I do know is that Jesus collected the people the religious leaders labeled as sinners, disobedient to the "law" and practicing poor doctrine. He often told them to go and sin no more, knowing full well they would go and sin some more. How good of Him to spill His blood for them, for me, for you.
So when you come to my spaces, Red Tent Living, Brave On, retreats or seminars or just to my home for dinner you will find a wide array of people who love Jesus. They may be Catholic, or Episcopalian, they may be LGBTQ, they may be breaking all of your personal rules and still claim Jesus as their own and have stories to tell about how they are learning to follow Him. Or they may desperately long to know Jesus more deeply and just like so many who found their way Him in the Bible they are broken and hungry and it is a privilege to sit with them and offer them nourishment and kindness.
And if you can't come, can't support or can't participate because Jen Hatmaker or Sarah Bessey or whoever else doesn't line up with your personal preferences is invited I grieve that for you.
Because I know today that I missed out on lavish love God wanted to pour out in my soul through all that had to be excluded during the years I practiced my personal doctrine of "againstism".
And I hope that someday you will chose to join us, bring your voice and your story to the table, because we will be richer for having had you there.