I hear it in hushed tones in the foyer and at the potluck where I eat too much dessert. Sometimes the conversations seep into the supermarket check-out line and the school fundraiser.
It’s talk about why this person or that person left the church. Other times it’s gossip about where this visitor came from, what congregation he left, or why he’s there.
Usually I shrug my shoulders and move on. But every now and then, I get sucked into the black hole only to later, somehow drag myself out feeling depleted and empty.
And then I see the faces of 21 “men of the cross” plastered all of over the internet, social media and news, and I simply want to hang my face in shame.
My God, what have we done? What have we done to your church? There are people in another country dying in the name of Jesus, and we’re over here, safe in our beds, slandering the names of our own brothers and sisters.
We have turned the church of Christ into a brand for the select few. We have turned what should be a gathering place for the sick into a club for those who meet our social criteria.
I could lose my lunch at the thought of it. And I am guilty. God, am I guilty.
All I can think as I see those men kneeling on the beach is that somewhere there is a family mourning a deep and unexplainable loss. And here we are casting others out because they are not part of our denomination or doctrine or theology.
Jesus did not shed his blood for us to be divided. No, he prayed for unity.
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as your are in me and I am in you.” John 17:20-21 NIV
He did not pray for us to be one with the clique that we have created within our church walls. He did not pray for us to be one with a select few.
He prayed for us to be one with all believers, as a complete body, working as the hands and feet of the one who gave up everything so that we could have life.
This means extending past the walls of our church building and into streets filled with the addicted, the hurting, the hungry and the lost. This means reaching out to that congregation you’ve been avoiding because you don’t agree with their practices.
It’s time to move past the walls dividing us and remember the blood that unites us.
People are losing their lives over what we take for granted every day. Men are kneeling down, sending up one last prayer to the Almighty over what we use as a crutch or reason to stand aloof.
Jesus, forgive us. Forgive me.
May I never forget what you paid such a high price to give. May I take up the cross and be a person of the cross, reaching out in love to those who need your truth.
May I remember that in the end there is only one designation which will matter: whether we are “people of the cross” or not.