When my family returned to the United States in 1979, everything I owned fit into one suitcase. I was 15 years old. I was stunned by the love of a Christian community called Christ’s Center in San Diego.
The medium sized church rented an apartment for my missionary family of five. They furnished it and stocked it with food including peaches that were canned by the women of the church. They also made matching quilts for the three beds for my sisters and me. I had never had matching things for my bedroom and it was a huge surprise to us.
We live in a time when Christians are behaving badly. I’m a Christian who will own up to it. They haven’t always been this way.
I need to get something off my chest. I owe you an apology. More like, Christians owe the world an apology.
We are known for abandoning our grandchildren when they are born out of wedlock. We are known for rejecting our own children when they are not straight. We are known for being argumentative and judgmental. We are known for caring more for military expansion than for providing for the poor. And the list goes on.
I wish Christians were known for being kind, compassionate, generous, and welcoming. I wish Christians were known for their support and sense of community. I wish Christians as a group would listen more and argue less. I wish that we would be known for our love.
Not all Christians are behaving badly. Some are doing extraordinary work around the world. They are building houses, providing food for the hungry, building orphanages and teaching people to read. Some take care of missionaries who have nothing but a suitcase because they sold all they owned in order to follow their call.
If you have been hurt by the church or by Christians, I’m sorry. If someone you love has been shot down by Christians, I’m sorry.
There is a kind of Christian out there who humbly wrestles with theology that hurts people. Who is learning to behave in kindness and love, compassion and generosity, acceptance and grace. They focus on bringing good news and not judgment. I want to be among them, like the people at Christ’s Center.
At this point, I’m tempted to make promises. We’ll do better. But I can’t speak for every Christian. I remember what Ken Carpenter said in a conversation about narcissists.
People who struggle with the personality disorders make it pretty much impossible to have a genuine relationship with them — everything is always about them and everything has to be on their terms. Their relationships are not based upon mutuality, but power and positioning and they are extremely abusive when trying to maintain or gain power and position over those closest to them. Very sad and heart-breaking. Ken Carpenter
Sadly, this reminds me of some in the Christian Church. Do we have a personality disorder? I don’t know, but I see some similar characteristics:
- Everything has to be on their terms
- Relationship is not based on mutuality
- Relationship is based on power and positioning
- Abuse may be used to gain or maintain power/position
How do we have authentic relationships? I’d start by pursuing the opposite of dysfunction. Making genuine connections instead of competing for power.
- Everything does not have be on their terms – relationships that are not one-sided or that are avoided altogether
- Relationships based on mutuality
- Relationships not based on power and positioning
- Not abusive or conditional
- Not a competition for power
Even more than that, I dream of church that nurtures genuine connection. I dream of the Christian church as a place where you feel safe to share your heart. Where you are acknowledged and valued. Where the outcasts are included as well as encouraged to develop their potential. I dream of a place called Church where people are known by their identity, strengths and destiny. I want to be among them.
How to Nurture Genuine Connection
- Pursue connection over position
- Make sure people feel seen, heard and valued
- Listen so that the relationship is not only on your terms
- Listen to make sure both parties benefit from the relationship
- Encourage connection and vulnerability
- Nurture a place where both people feel supported
- Know people by their strengths and destiny
This reminds me of Brene Brown’s quote: