This morning I did something I rarely do. I turned on the radio. (yes, it still exists). I just had this odd feeling like I was supposed to. A Bethel song came on about blessing future generations and I was loudly singing along. And then, suddenly- gone. It went from beautiful music to white noise- static- crackling soundwaves. Since I had previously felt the radio was a Spirit prompted thing, I left on the static the entire car drive back home, waiting. Waiting not for the song to return, but for His voice. When I was about 2 minutes from home, my heart sunk like a load of bricks. I heard over the radio the sounds of two competing stations, trying to vie for that spot on my airwaves. It was loud, it was clear. “This is what it sounds like Ashley.” To those that don’t know Jesus right now, our worship sounds like crackly static. Our voices sound like competing talk shows both trying to get us to switch over and pick one. Although this wasn’t total news to my ears, it made me deeply sad all the same. I waited and listened more. I asked the Lord, “what should we do?”. Again, it just felt like an obvious answer at that moment- “turn it off.” When the car was silent from the static gurgle of radio noise it became so much easier to ask Jesus, “What do you want to say?”.
HE is who we need to be listening to right now. And when I say listening to Jesus, I don’t mean tuning everything out, just "sticking to our guns" and not addressing or doing anything. I mean intentionally having purposeful conversations with Him and asking Him what His thoughts are about the issues we (as a people of God, not just personally) are wrestling with and how we should respond.
I, like I’m sure many of you, have felt so saddened by the bitter responses of God’s people- at least in the US- in this time. (*Sidenote reminder that God is at work in His church globally...We have had the joyful gift of being connected to many internationally that are seeing the miraculous in the pain and it gives us hope!) But if it sounds like annoying competing radio channels here to me, I can only imagine what it sounds like to those who haven’t yet met Jesus. SO, what do we do with the pain? The emotions? The tension? The seemingly polar opposite opinions? Is it possible that people who love Jesus simply do not agree? Should we?
“If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.” 1Corinthians 13:1. Reminds me a lot of what I just heard.
If we cannot first look at our brother or sister and recognize that they too are a child of God that is deeply loved by Him, and that we likewise need to come with compassionate love, we will just sound like noise. If we have no place in our mindset to acknowledge that God can and does deeply care about many things; things that we have placed in different corners; we lose our empathy altogether. His heart can break for those lost in the womb AND lost in the system. It can bleed for those lost in PTSD from battle AND lost because of police brutality. Therefore, can our hearts not also? Unfortunately, we have a hard time seeing past our own pain enough to be completely present to the pain of others. Our goal so often in conversations and relationships has been to get someone else to understand and agree with our point of view- rather than simply hearing someone else’s heart. Why? Because we long for justification. We need to know that our feelings are not just valid, but right. We have an obsession with begin “right”. Jesus says that there is no one who is fully righteous (but Him) and yet we still have placed the idol of RIGHT on a pedestal. Being righteous is different than being right. You can be right without being righteous. Refer back to 1 Corinthians 13. When we truly respond to Philippians 2 and think of others above ourselves, we learn to come to the table with humility. We can then recognize that the way we think, feel and believe is likely not the fullness of righteousness the way Christ intended it. There are pieces of His heart that I have missed along the way. My human experiences, history, trauma, environment and even choices, have likely skewed my full understanding of God’s heart for His kingdom. He who has ears to hear let him hear. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there are any things in me that offend You, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24. Also, assume that there are things that offend Him. Get over the idea that you’re coming from a place of complete purity and righteousness in all things. We just aren’t. When Isaiah saw God, He said, “woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips and unclean people.” He wasn’t wallowing in shame and self degradation; he was just acknowledging his place before God which then opened Isaiah's heart for the Lord to give Him truth and anointing.
One of the best ways God has been teaching me to practice listening to His heart and thoughts is by going back through the gospel of Luke. Here I find Jesus' heart towards people, and at times towards issues. We can begin from this place:
“I acknowledge that YOU are King of Kings. I likely have missed things and have both assumed, been taught from a limited perspective, or simply chosen to ignore some of the things in your Word, even if that’s not my heart. I’ve felt torn and confused by issues of our day and I’m not quite sure what to think. What do YOU think? Teach me please.”
Here are a few questions you can talk to Jesus about to help you get started. Ask the Holy Spirit, what should I ask you? What do you want to address in me?
* Jesus what do you think about the Church? Your people? Buildings? Who we should eat with and who we should not associate with? What is family? Spiritual family? The body? Who is neighbor? What are your thoughts on pastors and teachers and congregants- how did you intend for this to look? *Write down what you see and hear. Be willing to let Him flip things upside down for you even if it’s scary.
* Jesus what do you think about politics? About nations and national pride? Safety and security? Persecution? War? Government? Leadership? Foreigners and immigrants? What do I believe about these things that were taught from another perspective than this? What are your thoughts towards me? (write down what you learn from asking these questions, not from how you would immediately respond. It will be very hard not to simply learn what we want to hear because it fits in our current context. Trust Him. Jesus came to a people who were expecting something very very different than what He brought.)
* Jesus teach me about racism? Prejudice? Oppression and systems? People in poverty? Are there any ways I take part in these things or don’t see them with your eyes that you need to retrain me? What mindsets and social constructs have been deposited in me that I haven't been aware of? (Again, base assumption in every question that you don’t have the full picture and that He wants to teach you something here.)
* Jesus, what do you think about homosexuality? About sexual purity? Pornography? Prostitution? Abortion? Masturbation? How do you feel about me when I’ve been part of these things? Where do the root of each of these things begin? (again assuming we all have in some way. Ask Him to show you how if you don’t know.) What’s your true heart here? What do you see that I don’t see?
* Jesus how do you feel about Truth? What is truth? Who is truth? How do you handle it? How did you answer people when they asked you questions? (This is such an important thing to press in to- look at when Jesus responded in parables, when he chose to address root issues, when He attacked things head on. Make a chart, a list. but press in here.)
Here’s the thing.
Sometimes, knowing the Word of God can be a hindrance to us fully understanding His heart.
That sounds blasphemous, I know- but here’s what I mean. I can’t count how many Scriptures I have memorized. I’ve been reading the Bible pretty thoroughly for the last 30 something years. At any given time, I could find you a Scripture to prove a point about something. I could prove opposite points from the Word. That seems messed up but it’s true. It's not that the Bible contradicts itself, it's that we have learned how to manipulate it to fit our needs. We see things in linear sides (this or that), we find Scriptural truth to back it up and we go to war; leaving wounded hearts and casualties as we go.
If we are willing to ask Him the hard questions *together* realizing much of it begins in the wounded places in our own hearts, then I believe we will begin to see corporate healing. Together means that with people that agree with you and disagree with you we ask things like, “God, what do you think about this? And how should we respond?” Think outside the box Church. This outside party lines. Think outside walls. Dream with Him. Ask Him. And before we respond to anyone else, let’s check our own hearts. Let's be less static clanging cymbals and more postured to listen to His heart for redemption.