Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ugliness

I spent some time this morning talking with a friend who had just left a Bible study at church where she experienced ugliness coming from another woman. I'm not referencing anything physical -- I'm talking about heart ugliness. This other woman continuously cut my friend off during the discussion then when it came to prayer time refused to hear my friend's request because it "didn't follow protocol." My friend was in tears and will most likely never return to the study due to this other woman's actions.

My heart is breaking over this on so many different levels. My friend is a strong Christian woman who's had a challenging life of divorce, unemployment, single parenthood, cancer treatment... just attending this study was a big step for her because she was self conscious about recent surgery scars and just how different she is from many of the other women. She's been hurt emotionally and spiritually by this experience.

My heart is sad for the other woman, too: She, a professing Christian, is acting in such an unChristian manner. What's the reason? What truth is she missing? How is she hurting, and in the process how many others is she hurting? Does she even know her actions are downright ugly?

And, for the Church. Not just our own little local church, but the global network of Christians who are called to be the body of Christ until He returns. If believers can hurt other believers so dramatically, what are we doing for the poor, the broken, the lost? Ugliness tarnishes our entire witness. Christ tells us to love each other... to wash each other's feet... to be unified. To act beautifully, not ugly. What does the world see when we act ugly?

This was just one little instance, one moment of one day where ugliness caught me full in the face. I know I'm naive... ugliness rests in so many hearts, waiting for a moment to leap out and cause destruction. I know I'm guilty of ugliness myself. But maybe, just maybe, today has opened my eyes enough to be on the lookout. Maybe by knowing the power of ugly, I can remember instead to run to Love. And maybe (hopefully) I can cause you to look out for ugly in your own homes and hearts and warn you: even a little ugly can have huge repercussions.

4 comments:

erikaphelps said...

Ugliness like this is exactly what led me to ultimately discard the Christian label for myself. Growing up as a believer in the Spirit, the undying Love and Light of God, I was constantly cut down by the ugliness in others who had very specific ideas about who Christians are and what Christians do--and which often fall far short of Christ's instructions for us. As I met people with other faiths who acted much more Christ- or God-like than many of those who call themselves Christian led to a long and challenging conversation with the Spirit about what living and witnessing Love and Light really is. Ultimately, I found that "the poor, the broken, the lost" often have much more powerful witnesses to accepting, respecting, and embracing the Light of God in every person. One of my favorite bumper stickers on my car is a Ghandi quote: "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." It would be beautiful to see more Christians acting like Christ themselves, and Muslims acting more within the calling for peaceful loving actions in the Koran, more of everyone recognizing that we must fix our own hearts with the help of the Spirit before we try to teach others how to fix theirs. I think the world would be a much better place for it!

Sarah Jane said...

Oh Jenny, this is a very true and terrible fact.

The story of your friend wrung my heart, and the knowledge that such "ugliness" is so widespread among the Christian church today, is so disheartening. We are seeing this first hand in our own very small church where our pastor recently resigned because of similar cases of "ugliness" from members of his congregation. It is heart breaking and is like hurting someone in your own family; which, indeed, in a spiritual sense, is actually the case.

I like erikaphelps statement that Christians should act more like Christ. The church has become so organized and political these days that I think it has lost sight of its first and greater calling - to educate and exhort and encourage each other, in love, and to share the good news of Christ with the lost.

Jenny P. said...

Erika, I appreciate your viewpoint on this; you've had way more experience with people of other religions than I have. Your last sentence really speaks to Christ's words about removing the log from our own eyes before picking dust out of our neighbor's. You've triggered off a bunch of thoughts for me -- expect another post on this in a couple days. (P.S. I've noticed your bumpber sticker. LOL... driving behind your car last year was funny because every stop light I was too busy reading to pay attention)

Sarah Jane, I agree with you that a lot of the issues in the church come from it being over-organized. So many churchs have turned into Pharasees. The inevitable question that follows, then, is: How can we change it?

Organizing Mommy said...

I'm so sorry that you and your friend had to experience that! Sounds awful. Yes, Christians can be ugly to one another. What is it about Christ that is not attractive to them enough to emulate him?