Blogging during my trip to Ireland was difficult to say the least. Most entries were written after midnight and few amazing experiences were captured due to the fullness of activities that kept me going from 6am to 1am most nights.
This trip was one of the most enlightening ones I’ve ever encountered. Not only was it amazing to capture footage for the documentary, but it was also amazing to capture the spiritual activities that flowed throughout our time there. It’s my hope that I can share some of those moments with you in a handful of up coming blogs.
The most memorable lesson I learned came from me asking a simple question. “What is the most notable problem facing the American church?”
I asked this question of seven different Irish believers who didn’t know I had asked others. All were extremely hesitant to answer, as they didn’t want to come across judgmental. I had to pry the answer out of each one. These were people that had a special love for Americans and they were thrilled by our presence.
All answers were the same, “The American church is judgmental.” One woman shared how she became a believer and stated that had she lived in America, she would never have been saved due to the church’s condemning spirit. She went on to share how important it is for the American church to fully understand and share grace.
After all seven Irish believers shared the same comment; I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just that international idea that all Americans are bad, so I asked several Americans if they thought the church was judgmental. Every one of them answered “yes” and immediately gave examples.
I recalled the comment Jesus made in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
The fact that we all fall short was clear to Paul who wrote in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” One Irish woman agreed with Paul and shared that there are so many problems in Ireland that it was easy for each believer to show grace, especially since they all knew that they didn’t live up to God’s complete standards.
I talked with one woman about divorce. She was shocked to hear that divorce in the American church was about 54% (based on the last statistic I read). She couldn’t understand why Christians would divorce when it was clear in God’s word that marriages were sacred and for life. She asked me what the Christian view of obedience to God was, since the divorce rate was so high.
The cultural differences based on spiritual understanding were significant. It made me think and rethink many spiritual concepts in light of an international community. I suddenly found myself asking why it was that America had so many denominations that take such strong stands on a handful of verses that have little impact on our daily lives.
The thought of our petty differences continue to shake me. Unity in the church created by sharing love and grace is important and I’m a firm believer that it’s our job to love one another, not judge one another.
An American shared at breakfast one morning that, “they will know us by our love.” This was a comment of hope from a woman who watched numerous people acting out in judgment against others on the trip. It reminded me of 1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
I can tell you plainly that the Irish church loved me. I can also tell you that the guys I hung out with also loved me. Unfortunately, there were some who didn’t know how to love, nor did they know how to put others above themselves. The sad thing was watching others share love with them and watching them not being able to receive and accept the love. They were so entrenched in their own thoughts about how life should play out, that they missed the blessings God poured in their direction.
The love from the Ireland church was pure and I watched them overlook numerous “sins” committed by the Americans on the trip. The amount of grace they poured out to us was overwhelming, especially when I knew it wasn’t earned or deserved. They emptied themselves of every ounce of love they could squeeze out.
I was in awe of their faith and hope some day I can live up to the same precious beliefs they hold dear and true. I want to be known as a person who shares grace from the depths of my soul and I never want to be found judging others. Maybe then, someone who feels guilty or is filled with shame will find me to be a breath of fresh air in a time of need.
I have to say I agree with what you are saying here CJ. I believe we do come across as judgmental in many ways. I believe that we need to stand for righteousness, but we need to remember that our righteousness is filthy rags compared to His righteousness. That should give us a more graceful perspective. Pastor Keith once said that he wanted Calvary to be more like a church he told us about. The church had an outreach to prostitutes and they once threw a birthday party at the church for a prostitute at 2:00 in the morning. I’ll bring the cake!