I thought about walking out of church this morning. It wasn’t that the songs were not the right ones, or that the message was not the right message, or that the coffee was too hot or the cream too cold. It wasn’t the childcare or the lack thereof; it wasn’t the hypocrisy of the people or the kindness in their handshakes. It wasn’t because they asked for too much of my money during offering time or that they didn’t call on me during Sunday school. These things, the things that I, at some point in my extremely entitled life, have complained about were not what caused me to almost walk out of church today. Those things don’t matter. It wasn’t something that the church did that caused the weight to build and ache in my chest, it was what they didn’t do. It was this that I could not stomach: We didn’t pray for the Christians in Iraq, we didn’t even mention them.
In the middle of the third song about my relationship with Christ, my need for grace, my need for help from the Strong Tower, something seriously cracked inside of me. Heat ran through my body and I felt the need to hide my face. I was embarrassed in front of the Lord. I was embarrassed that we, the sleeping giant, the American church sing songs and pray for ourselves more than we pray for the church. I felt embarrassed that in Sunday school we spent 20 minutes on prayer time for ankle surgery, and travel mercies and only briefly mentioned the hurting church. Y’all, I know you are thinking I’m being harsh, that these things matter (and they do), but we need to be a little harsh on ourselves. We need to realize that the rest of the world is falling apart, that Christians are being murdered in the streets, that mothers are holding the bodies of their decapitated children and crying out to the Lord for mercy and we…we…we are singing songs about our relationship with Christ and praying for our very blessed ankles.
I would like to hear from you today. Did your churches pray for those who are for the first time in my life, being murdered in a way that even the Nazis would find brazen? Was it a simply mention over coffee with sad eyes and chatter of how terrible it is for ‘those people’? Or was it a church, getting down on their faces and crying out for our brothers and sisters?
I wonder…is it denial? As I listened to a very nice sermon this morning… good words, from the Good Book, I could not help but wonder. When did we become so disconnected from the rest of the church in the rest of the world? When did we become so internally focused that we don’t even mention the systematic genocide of our brothers and sisters in church because it might be disturbing or unsettling for our members? When did we forget that we are the body of Christ, and they…those we see on TV, those are our arms and legs that are being cut down for their belief in Jesus? When did we become so apathetic that we believe that the chasm between us and them is too great for the Holy Spirit to bridge through prayer and fasting? That in the wake of one of the worst persecutions the church has seen in my lifetime, we don’t even mention in it church.
This is the time to put away our differences, those things that we make soapboxes out of when there is something out there that truly, truly matters. Lets start today caring less and less about if alcohol should or should not be drunk, if offering should be 10% or more, if we should sing hymns or choruses, if we can use instruments or not, if we can raise or hands or sit still, if we like this speaker or that one. Let us let go of what divides us and be united this day in prayer.
This is a time to rip our robes, to put ash on our foreheads, to cry out to the God of the Universe and call for action! This is a time to remove the cloak of apathy that we wear over our hearts in the name of self-control and order. Tear your clothes, put ash on your foreheads. Let us mourn for the dead and let our voice rise to the heavens for those living in the midst of hell on earth. Because who will sing for them if not us…their brothers and sisters?
God said, IF my people pray….IF. So I am asking us all to do something. To not sit by and sing a comforting song about Jesus being our refuge in the hard times, to not simply quote the verse that all things work out for the good for those who believe in him…but to care enough to fast and pray. This week I will fast and pray on Tuesday and Thursday. Will you join me?
Because this morning when I sang the words…I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. I saw this picture in my mind and my soul cried out, “I have no idea God, no idea what those words mean.”
Join me in prayer and fasting this week. IF MY PEOPLE PRAY…