Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lessons From A History We Choose To Ignore

It certainly has been a long time since I've written a blog.  With the everyday work I have to do, there never seems to be time to let my thoughts rest long enough for something intelligent to emerge.  Nevertheless, after doing some reading on the history of my denomination (The Evangelical Free Church of America) I realized something.  There are a lot of things in history we attempt to forget.  Whether it be the bombing of Hiroshima, the dark history of Slavery and homelessness in our country, or the sex trafficking that happens right under our noses during every Superbowl season, there are countless examples in our history that we neglect to consider.  Perhaps that's because we choose to look on the "bright side" of things.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Too often we don't want to acknowledge our history for fear of what it says about us.  We want to be the country where everyone is treated fairly and has the same chance to succeed, and perhaps if we were to look at the full scope of what happens here in America we would see that there is plenty of distress to accompany the success stories we here praised so often.

This post, however, is not about our American history.  It's about our religious history.  I was reading about the beginnings of the Free Church in Denmark and about how much tension there was between those who thought baptism should happen to infants and those who did not.  In fact, it went so far that some religious individuals were kidnapping children in order to have them baptized.   I was shocked to hear this.  These are not the things we normally here when learning about the history of the Church, and this isn't the only example of Church history that we try to brush aside.  From the Crusades to indulgences to corruption, there are many things we choose not to focus on.  In fact, we often have a visceral reaction when non-Christians bring up this history.  We think it unfair and antagonistic to highlight our failures when so much good has happened through the spread of the Gospel message and through the local and global church.  We Christians tends to respond with equal antagonism highlighting either the faults in the other's religious history or trying to turn the conversations away to the good things about Christians.  I think both of these are mistakes.  A common saying is that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."  We throw this around but we ignore our own history.  We share the history of our lives with our children in hopes that they can learn from our mistakes, but we try to pretend that the Church has been perfect and that any mistakes are anomalies.

Instead of hiding from the failures in our history, we should embrace our failures.  2 Cor. 12:9 highlights that God works most powerfully in our weaknesses.   How can we claim this for our own lives yet ignore it when it comes to our history?  We should learn to boast in the weaknesses in our history.  It is a perfect example to show others that just because we love Jesus does not mean we are perfect.  Only He is perfect.  We are on our way there, but we will never reach perfection until we are in the presence of God in eternity.  Yet His perfection shines through in our weaknesses, whether they are personal, communal, present, or historical, we should not be proud that we fail, but we boast in our weakness because God can display His strength where we are prone to fail.  So next time someone points out a shortcoming, whether yours or the Church's, tell they their absolutely right.  Use it as a chance to share the Gospel; Jesus came to save sinners, of whom we are still the worst.  Yet Jesus uses us as examples of His great patience and calls all to repent and turn to Him (see 1 Tim 1:15-17).