If you were to base your perception on me solely on what I post on blogs, social media, or any public presentation or sermon how would you describe me?
Well, my hope is that you’d use words like humble, faithful, lover of the poor, and works for justice. To some level I believe all that would be true.
What if I told you that I am also a little racist, a bit homophobic, my motives are selfish, and on more days than I’d like to admit the poor simply annoy me?
The fact is… that would all be true as well.
The last thing my ego wants to unveil is this foundational personal reality – I am a mass of contradictions.
When I say something about my activity with the poor or my friendships across racial, religious, or sexual divides there’s almost always at least some part of me that simply wants your affirmation and praise.
Yes, I am that needy.
This confession explains my reluctance to jump into the Ferguson conversation. My hesitation to participate in the vacuum of this emotionally charged hysteria is not about white guilt.
My contradictions have been having a staring contest with me… and I blinked first. The result is I see the complexity of my mixed motives for becoming involved. Some of those motives are healthy and some are not. Most often I’m the only one that can tell the difference.
On the one hand acknowledging this to you feels risky and on the other I know it’s true of you as well. I see it everyday in our nation - one that calls itself the land of the free and stamps In God we trust on currency while ignoring native people on reservations, unjustly deporting immigrants, and turning a blind eye to police brutality.
When we hold our hand over our heart we pledge allegiance to this paradox.
But this recognition of personal and cultural contradiction isn’t the end. Instead, there’s a humble invitation to an explosively hopeful beginning. And it’s a wildly inclusive invitation.
I’m talking about the reality of the cross of Christ – the ultimate contradiction.
In the cross both power and weakness are divinely held together. In the cross the radical notions of the end of life and the beginning of life are embraced in the same moment.
In my contradictions I see myself broken and weeping at the foot of the cross. And before I wipe my face off I humbly realize I have to put down my hammer and nails first.
At a global, national, and personal level we are parched for this type of spiritual transformation. We long for personal intimacy, national identity, and global unity – good desires. But our fear of rejection and the weight of loneliness quickly morphs into competition, rivalry, and violence. It’s only through an act of grace that we see through these contradictions to the power of the cross which allows me to hold them in creative tension.
Through the cross I don't have to fear rejection. Rivalry becomes pointless. God’s Son is the scapegoat and embraces me as his own.
He asks us to follow him. To stop pointing guns and fingers and see ourselves as we really are. To disrupt our momentum and bust our egos in the act. To change our mind. Jesus happened to call it repentance and said it's the doorway to the Kingdom - a radical orientation toward humility, generosity, and unity.
It's what's required today especially by those like me the privileged white middle-class.
I am both rival and reconciler.
both crazy and sane.
If I can’t hold the paradox
I just stay the same
The cross accepts contradiction
a quiet invitation to change
My power is in weakness
both limitless and lame.