From my far away table in a land that did not birth me but welcomes me, I watched my home country elect its 45th president yesterday. I believe that in the aftermath, we are witnessing a seismic cultural-quake. This is not a political post. It is a letter home from a foreigner to my Church in America.
Today, I pray that God enables you choose to be missional in new and necessary ways.
Perhaps you used to believe that the task of living cross-cultrally belonged to someone else, but today the call to live missionally becomes yours. You are now being sent.
Regardless of how you voted or why you voted for a specific candidate, this election is changing our nation. Perhaps tomorrow’s historians will debate whether the cultural shift was inevitable regardless of who won. In all honesty, cultural change has rippled like the waves of people crossing lands and rumbled like the war engines mounting an assault for years now. It has built walls and birthed fear and begged for sanctuary. And, it will continue to roar regardless of who holds the position of President. But, how you must live in this land that was never your own now takes on new dimensions. The missional call is yours.
The hard work of a missionary is to enter into a culture that is not his/her own and to enter as a learner and as a listener.
The calling is to shed tears with the one who mourns, to hold the one who fears, and to live as a literal bridge to Jesus. Though he or she does this imperfectly, the missionary must choose to continue to be spilled out amidst a land that is dry and brittle and thirsty for the hope of new life.
The cost is that she or he, like Jesus, must become vulnerable and must weep with and weep for and weep over.
Ripped from the soil where they naturally grow, a missionary learns to live among, live as, live with people of another culture.
And though every missionary you have sent has made mistakes, and though he has been an imperfect representation of the Jesus he loves, and though she continues to limp culturally, and babble linguistically, and view situations through dimmed eyes, God intends a missionary to be his living letter. Today, it is you that is being sent.
As you prepare to gather in your sanctuary this first Sunday after Wednesday’s election, would you allow me to gently remind you that this comfortable, safe place is not your home. You have to move beyond your walls; beyond your sanctuary, into the cultural communities that percieve their reality to be in the margins of a society. This is not something that your pastoral team does. It is not a Sunday School project. It is you.
You are called by God to be so transformed by his presence in you that your presence in a culture is nothing more or less than a tangible, life-giving, authentic image of Jesus himself. Being present requires a purposeful, and a geographical move.
~Take the first step into the cultures that are foreign to you: the LGBTQ community, the Muslim community, the homeless, or addicted, or divorced, or politically liberal, or non-believing community, the immigrant community or any other community whose skin tones don’t look like yours, and there, in that place, amongst that people, you must do the hard work of learning and listening. Just this. Just this.
And in that journey, make yourself available for the Word to enflesh himself within your arms and your heart, and your eyes, and your voice.
~Move into the streets of our neighborhoods and communities because the Church belongs there this Sunday. It is into that very public and very intimate sphere that we are sent to be vulnerable and courageously prayerful, where we weep and offer the words of lament and brokenness with others not like us; where we do the impossible, yet mercy-filled work of simply being present with those who are fearful, hopeless, broken, voiceless, and vulnerable.
~Begin to ask and to allow God to shape your political ideologies, your economic choices, your social perspectives, and your multi-cultural interactions into forms that reflect kingdom priorities, rather than those that serve your best interests or levels of comfort. Be ready to be moved by God into deeper realms of compassion and advocacy.
~Plant your lives beside and together with the culture that was once foreign to you, so that the seasons of harvest and the seasons of barrenness are weathered together. It is only in that shared moment and that shared place and from that shared perspective that you have earned the right to speak of your faith.
~Learn to speak the language and to recognize the lenses that translate into shared hope and authentic love wtihin the culture.
~Stop thinking and speaking in terms of ‘us and them’.
Many people in America woke up today confused, afraid, hurt, and angry. The data said that 80% of evangelicals voted for a person whose name is equated with hate and fear and pain. Regardless of whether you believe that to be an accurate perception, many communities are translating that into a very clear statement that the Church does not care, does not love, does not welcome. You must go. You must be present. Be living letters. Be missional. This is the living language of Love.
May God give you fierce compassion, fierce faith, and fierce love in the midst of brokenness today.
A Fellow Foreigner