Rich Villodas, a preacherman I know only through social media, recently said, “Any person who fits neatly in a political party does not fit neatly in the kingdom of God.” *
As his words tumbled around, I realized I have been trying to fit neatly into many categories and groups the whole of my life. I remember:
- high school band
- youth group
- churches of many colors and stripes
- political parties
- teachers’ lounge
- social groups
Even at family gatherings, I often feel distant.
I’m probably not the only one who has felt this way over the years. Maybe you have been in groups or committees or organizations that expect unwavering, unquestioning loyalty to their vision or version of “right”. What they believe is the bottom line or the best decision or the only way to go.
As I search my soul, I can say with almost certainty that I’ve never been in a social setting, music organization, club, or political organization with which I agree completely. For those who have known me for any length of time, it may surprise you to hear that I even have serious issues about some of the “Biblical truths” many of my Christian brothers and sisters hold as gospel.
I put those words in quotations not to be sassy, but to point out my concern that some of us are getting a little cocky about what “clear understanding of the Bible” really means. We refer to the verses we know and love and that prove our point. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Christians did to segregate the races back in the day. Didn’t turn out very well, did it?
At times, I do speak my mind about my real feelings, but only in the comfort and safety of friends and loved ones with whom I share deep trust. This is most evident with faith and politics, but it happens in other, less critical, settings.
But, when I read those words again, comparing my position in politics with my place in the Kingdom of God… well…
Good golly, Miss Molly.
And it’s not just about politics. There is not a single collection of simply human people that can claim the purity and perfection of the Kingdom. I don’t mean the Kingdom family is perfect. Please.
I’m saying for the Kingdom of God, acceptance is not about standing in the right political line or carrying the correct placard. It’s not about how you feel about women pastors or how I feel about who can love who. At the door (or the pearly gates), we will not be asked whether or not we voted for him or her or them. We will not be asked if we donated our money to build a wall or reunite families.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ll be asked about lots of things. You bet we will. I still don’t know exactly how that is going to work, but I do know we will have to come clean. And when we do, we will see just how much God is willing to forgive. And just what it meant for Jesus to make it possible.
But what we confess, or how much we confess, or the controversial nature of our confession is not the key to the Kingdom. Nope.
The only thing is the only thing. Jesus is the Way. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, if you have questions, if you don’t agree with me, or if you just want to talk, get in touch. Do it now.)
I have to keep telling myself that. Because when I have a strong sense I don’t fit into the group – whichever one it is – I realize I can own that feeling and my belief. I can just let it be that I don’t agree with every plank of the political platform to which I most align. Most things, maybe. But not everything. And when I have conversations in the church lobby about issues that are tricky, I can stand my ground. Not argue. And I don’t even need to be heard when I’m not asked. But I don’t have to disappear or blend in.
Because I know the only thing is the only thing. Jesus is the Way.
It’s OK to be “outside” or “on the fringe”. I want to be OK enough with my feelings that I’m just as much at home at my church as you or they or he or she is. Sure, there are those who live much closer to the core. Their opinions, positions, and beliefs align with the group opinions, statements of faith, and Biblical beliefs – right down to the last comma and period.
But if I don’t fit neatly into that denomination or this faith group, it isn’t a deal breaker. Because it’s not essential to my place in the Kingdom.
Of course, I may find that I’m completely wrong about what God meant by this verse or what Jesus was trying to tell us with that story. But, and here I am being a little sassy, you might be wrong too.
This much is clear. As members of the Kingdom of God, we don’t need to agree. Not about the issues that divide and wound us.
We do not have to grind each other down with the minutia because we share the foundations of faith – the ones about which no one can argue. Hear the words of Jesus:
…”I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
…”Love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
…”Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)
My lovelies, I know what it is to stand on tiptoe, looking at inside. I’ve been on edge and uncertain in crowds on the left, the right and the unknown. I’ve felt alone in crowds of fellow Believers. I understand outside.
When I read the wise words of Mr. Villodas, this was my response:
As I read these words over and over, my shoulders loosened and dropped.
I exhaled slowly and more peacefully, reminded that this world is not my home.
Mr. Villodas calls us to focus on what is perfectly true.
Hallelujah, what a Savior… xoxox
No, I don’t always fit in. Sometimes it’s because I’m either more or less strange than others in the group. Sometimes we have nothing in common. Sometimes I wouldn’t be willing to die on the hill of what we do have in common. I’ve mostly come to peace with being displaced in this world.
But there is one place I fit in neatly and belong in every way. The Kingdom of the Redeemed. I don’t have to interpret or massage or elaborate on its truth. Believing is enough.
Because the only thing will always and forever be the only thing.
Jesus is the Way.
*Mr. Villodas tweeted this on the morning of September 25, 2018.