Recently, people have read some of my writings and interpreted them as being extremely negative toward “church people.” I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of church practices, but you guys, I love church people so much I don’t even know how to explain the ways they’ve radically changed and influenced the person I am today. My parents are church people: I was in church and Sunday School every week growing up. Then, I got older, and I was free to stay at home instead if that’s what I wanted to do. I love my parents, and I love that they taught me to go to church…because more often than not, I still show up on Sunday mornings.
One of my most treasured friends plays the piano at her church. She prays for me, and she taught me how to really love people. She also told me once that church people would break my heart in the deepest ways. I have found that statement to hold quite a bit of truth, but church people wouldn’t break my heart if I didn’t love them. Hearts only break in the presence of compassion and love. Besides, I have also found that church people like her will care for your heart in the deepest ways instead.
My boyfriend and his family are church people, and I completely adore them. His grandparents invite me to Sunday lunch and have such kind conversations with me. His aunts and uncles are some of the absolute sweetest people I’ve ever met. His parents constantly cook for me and let me spend my evenings on their couch. His sister makes me laugh, and she’s always supportive. How could you not love church people like that?
I have another friend through community theater who is one of the pastors at a local church. He had a conversation with me about the last blog I wrote, and he shared some advice about loving other people. Basically, once you begin to abandon your hatred and choose love, it becomes very easy to hate those who haven’t abandoned hatred. He encouraged me to simply keep loving everyone, and I have never been so thankful to know someone understood how I felt.
Along the journey of becoming dedicated to love, I have found that I now have a much easier time loving the outcasts than I do the Pharisees. (It’s not that I hate any of the religious people I know. It’s just that it takes more effort for me to actively love some of them.) Loving people unlike myself is easy. It’s loving people who are exactly what I used to be that I find difficult. I don’t get frustrated with my friends who drink and smoke. I get frustrated with my friends who don’t approve of drinking and smoking, and I think it’s rather ironic that I’ve never been one to drink and smoke. But, I have absolutely been one to disapprove of those activities.
I’m really good at not motivating my compassion with evangelism, but I’m also really good at withholding my compassion from people when I don’t think they’ve been genuinely loving. And, I haven’t quite found a way to overcome that. I love my friends from CHILL, but I still get so upset and frustrated with them that it’s hard for me to be nice. I have to take deep breaths, close my eyes, and ask God for grace every time I do something for them in class. I know I need to find a way for my love to manifest itself more easily. I know I need to love church people more completely when I disagree with them… because love shouldn’t be conditional, limited, or secretly lying beneath the surface.
I’m not going to stop passionately fighting for what I believe; I just need to make sure I’m fighting compassionately as well. I might disagree with a lot of church people about a lot of things, but disagreement should leave room for love. Church people are wonderful, kind, dedicated, generous people. There are church people at my table, and my life wouldn’t be the same without them. (Hello, Shannon, this is reality where you, yes you, are, indeed, a church person.) I hope that each day, I can make more room-room for loving differences in opinion, room for growth in love, room for people who aren’t like me, and room for people who are like the girl I used to be… because we can only be truly loving people when we love ALL people.
1 Corinthians 16:23-24,