I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.
He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.
After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”
I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.
But some mistakes are much bigger than others. Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable.
Well-meaning people who love Jesus have made mistakes this month, this week, this hour. You have and I have.
We often quote World Vision founder Bob Pierce who said, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
I believe that the church’s lack of grace and humility is breaking God’s heart. My lack of grace and humility. Yours too?
A theologian friend of ours suggested, before anything else, lament is the first response we should have to sin. According to him lament is “a gut-level, angst-ridden sigh.”
I was re-reading Nehemiah 1 this morning. Remember Nehemiah’s first response to the news that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins? Verse 4 says, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and I prayed before the God of heaven.”
Today I’m lamenting not the walls that are in ruins, but that we have built walls that have divided us. And I think this must break God’s heart.
LORD, I lament the wall of our self-righteousness and self-sufficiency that separates us from you.
LORD, I lament our pride that has motivated us often to act and speak too quickly instead of waiting on You.
LORD, I lament that Christians are so profoundly polarized and that we are unable to embody Your call for unity in the Scriptures.
LORD, I lament that the public witness of the American church has been damaged by our Pharisaical judgmentalism and in-fighting.
LORD, I lament the walls we have built between black and white, Arab and Israeli, rich and poor, Democrats and Republicans.
LORD, I lament that gay people, beloved children of Yours, have been deeply wounded by the ways we have walled them off.
LORD, I lament that Your heart is broken over our brokenness.
LORD, I am heartened by the promise that NOTHING in all creation can separate us from Your love. May your love be the force that brings these walls down.