"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Friday, October 28, 2016

On Jen Hatmaker

As soon as the article and controversy surrounding Jen Hatmaker came out, I started getting emails and calls from friends wondering what I thought about it. This isn’t the first time this has ever happened to me. A well-known Christian, whose books or preaching have spoken to me in some way and stirred my affections even greater for my Savior, becomes engulfed in a controversy in Christian circles and in many cases, their ministry or platform starts to crumble or be called in to question. It can kind of feel like you just picked the wrong horse in the race. But, here is what I’ve found in this situation time and time again, they were never my horse. Because my horse is and always will be, Jesus. That’s the one I just placed all my bets on. No single person, no matter how smart or witty or great I may think they are, will be the one I’m pushing all my chips towards.

I’m a reader. I’m a thinker. I love theology and doctrine. I love going deeper and gainer greater understanding in scripture. I am constantly seeking out sound teaching from so many sources, old and new. I just finished C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I am currently obsessed with the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. I want to go to lunch with Tim Keller. Matt Chandler and Francis Chan are on repeat in my house. Tozer is my jam. Elisabeth Elliott is my mentor. Beth Moore is my #goals when it comes to becoming a student of the Word. George Mueller changed my life…for reals. I love, love, love the minds and lives of the body of believers.

But every so often, one of those minds says or does something that starts ripping the Bride apart. And if you think the world is quick to tumble down its celebrities once they stumble or say something the majority don’t agree with, you’ve never seen what happens to Christian “celebrities” and how quick followers of Jesus are ready to light the stake they hammer a well-known figure among them, on. It’s fast and it’s so often harsher than anything “the world” does to those it has elevated to any position of influence.

I’m a teacher and there is nothing more important to me than right doctrine and theology. I take it very seriously in my own ministry. I am in constant prayer that I never teach something against God’s Word or intent. I handle God’s Word with the utmost care and I’ve been finding more and more how so much what I thought I knew about scripture was completely wrong or out of context. I think it is why James was so adamant to be careful about exercising the spiritual gift of teaching when he said, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.[James 3:1-2]

It’s why Paul was constantly telling his mentee, Timothy to, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” [1 Timothy 4:16] Our life, what we do, and our doctrine, what we think. Watch them, Timothy! They are going to save you and those who listen to you from veering off in this race. They are going to save you from stumbling. Watch. Them. Closely. Because all of our doctrine is off somewhere and our lives don’t align with what we say we believe in all areas and we need to keep looking at it, finding the blind spots, making adjustments so we land where God wants us to in both our minds and actions.  

What God has been teaching me the more and more I read from great thinkers and theologians and teachers of our time and past is that I don’t need another book than the one He wrote. This sounds hypocritical from the girl who has an Amazon book delivery just about every week much to my husband’s chagrin, but the Creator of this universe thinks He gave us everything we’d need to figure out what He wanted us to figure out this side of heaven in one book. So while I love and appreciate words from those who love my God, I’m not banking on the people behind the words. I’m thankful for how they may spur me on in my walk or open my mind to new things I had never considered about God or how He has called me to live. But, I’ve never banked on these people. My first and foremost source is always the Bible. I spend more time there than the books of people’s thoughts on it because I believe that the Holy Spirit is the greatest Bible teacher of our time, more so than any pastor or teacher I may listen to or read.

But beneath all of this controversy is an even greater issue. There are things our generation is facing as a whole and as a Church that we aren’t unified in how we are supposed to handle them. We aren’t always sure where to land on some very complex subjects facing our generation. From refugees to the LGBTQ community to who should be president, the Church is all.over.the.board. I don’t have all the answers except we keep scouring God’s word to figure out how He wants us to navigate seemingly murky waters. But perhaps most importantly, He never intended for us as a family to figure it out over the internet, where words get spliced and people get brave to the point of sheer meanness and harshness. You know where Jesus most often worked out the tensions between truth and grace? The dinner table. Scripture shows us time after time Jesus wrestling through questions that were tripping the generation up reclined at a meal with a ragtag mix of company, from Pharisees to prostitutes. Because Jesus got something we are totally as a generation missing the mark on: important conversations DO NOT HAPPEN across impersonal computer screens, they happen at the most intimate of places—at home, face to face, looking one another in the eye.

The Church has failed in so many ways with so many groups of people. We have ostracized and antagonized when we should’ve extended an invitation to our most holy of spaces: our homes. We have made people think “Christian” was more of a political party affiliation than a radical, counter cultural revolution of following the savior of the world, Jesus. We’ve jacked up in more ways than not. And we have burned bridges of what we need most for the precious truth that so many of us are quick to tout: relational leverage. Jesus always gave truth in the right context of a face to face relationship. He engaged in situations where he could look someone in the eye. He didn’t compromise on His stance, but He always did it in a personal way. Facebook isn’t that place. I’ve said time and time again, I have never met a single person who has had a deeply entrenched view have it changed via Facebook. I’ve never met anyone saved by someone’s you’re going to hell posts. This is not the place where we dig deep and wrestle with hard issues like refugees, abortion, LGBTQ, Donald Trump, and the like. We do it face to face, where we may be a lot less brave and our voices may shake at times because we are trying to not completely devastate a relationship in the midst of disagreement.

I don’t agree with all my friends, many of whom love and follow Jesus. I can get fired up when people start talking about shutting down borders or limiting the number of refugees who enter our country. I can let people’s political posts change my views of them as humans, because I don’t agree with them and God is working on me in that area. I have strong, strong views on this election and how people should vote, and the majority of my very close, Christian, conservative friends and family strongly oppose my take on it. But, the ones who want to know where I stand, we have hashed it out in real life, over lemonade on my front porch or on the phone, not via social media. We’ve agreed to disagree on some very important topics. And I still love them and they still love me.

You know what I did when I heard about the Jen situation? I prayed. I prayed for her that the Lord reveal to her where her theology is wrong or off as I pray for myself as a teacher. I prayed for her and her family as she is about to feel the force of falling from “Christian grace" amongst majority evangelicals. I prayed that all the good that God has done through her writing and ministry, will not be discredited. Because Christians, perhaps more than anyone, are so ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, more than that, I prayed for myself. For God to reveal to me where I am off, where I have misunderstandings or where I have misspoken. I prayed for Him to show me how to traverse our current terrain because so many things are not just impacting “the world,” but also Christian families as well who are wanting to know how to love people yet be truthful in where they stand. As Jennie Allen put it, these aren’t issues, they are people we are talking about. There are a lot of hard and messy conversations we as a family need to have. But, we’ve got to do it at the right place and the right time and with the right spirit. So where do we go from here? Well, you know what will I do next? I’m going to open my Bible and place my bets.

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