“Loving the Church does not require romantic emotions. It requires the will to see the living Christ among his people and to love them as we want to love Christ himself. This is true not only for the “little” people – the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten – but also for the “big” people who exercise authority in the Church.

To love the Church means to be willing to meet Jesus wherever we go in the Church. This love doesn’t mean agreeing with or approving of everyone’s ideas or behavior. On the contrary, it can call us to confront those who hide Christ from us.* But whether we confront or affirm, criticize or praise, we can only become fruitful when our words and actions come from hearts that love the Church.” Henri Nouwen, “Meeting Christ In the Church,” Bread For the Journey (See henrinouwen.org)

* Sadly this sometimes means confronting our pastors, who are in positions of authority, but whose stands are unbalanced or just plain wrong. I once did just this (well, more than once), and when the pastor left the church for another job (also in the church), he told me to keep on saying what I had been saying – that it was a ministry given to me by God.

So, once again, I say: Racism is not gone. It is also not a problem most churches recognize as their turf (read, most ignore it); most churches follow society rather than leading. I will not be silent, but none of this means I don’t “meet Christ” in those whose emphasis is different from mine. It just means I must insist that theirs is not the only valid interpretation of Jesus’ “ministry of reconciliation.”

God wants equality on this earth and the church is His first choice to usher it in. Are you a part of the “church within the church” that is trying to do so?

” Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.” Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

O Lord, “Do not pass by your servant.” (Genesis 18:1) The struggle is not yet over. The “church within the church” still holds your sweet kernel of hope. May a small but fervent fragment speak faithfully to all of Your eternal kingdom. May we speak boldly in Your name, having been touched gently by Your hand. May we challenge leaders to lead where You want us to go. You are our strength and our motivation. You are the Savior.

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior