Fundamentalists are really eager to diagnose other peoples’ “illnesses.” But they have no plan or prescription, except, “Stop being sick.”
Statistics show that the church is shrinking. Young people don’t want to go. Why not? The big screens aren’t big enough? The music isn’t cool enough? I doubt it. The church is shrinking because it thinks it’s a club for the elite. “Good Christians” come to boost their own egos and to show each other how righteous they are. As long as it stays that way, people will stay away in droves. More and more, they will define themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and look elsewhere for help.
So, what is the diagnosis, and what is the cure? Fundamentalists would say the illness is homosexuality, laziness, or promiscuity (but only among women. Promiscuous men seem to be exempt) and the cure is to just stop being that way. (Repent!) Maybe some people can simply drop their old habits, but not me. For me, repentance has been a lifelong, zigzagging road. (And I’m still on that road.)
I believe the illness that Jesus talks about is loneliness, and we all need to become “caregivers” for one another. I know what loneliness feels like, and hopelessness, and desperation. And I know these things are not cured with a few words like “repent” or “Jesus loves you,” or even the best Bible verses. I know what it feels like to hate my life so much that I think I can’t take another day. And those feelings did not magically disappear when I became a Christian! The only way to treat this is a steady, ongoing application of love (real, flawed, imperfect love) combined with an ongoing search for–and acceptance of–God’s perfect love. As Christians, we have no right to withhold God from people whose sins we don’t approve of.
Let’s move our egos aside to make room for those who need God (just as much as we do). As Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, let us wash the feet of all who are willing to come.
Jesus answered … “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)