This morning I took a survey at my other job for a major shipping company. It was one of those typical surveys where large companies have all of their employees rank them from 1 to 5 in various categories in order to find out what the aforementioned employees really think about the job they do, the people they work with, and the company itself. Let me just tell you upfront that I am no fan of this job. I wake up incredibly early in the morning and move boxes for hours, until they stop coming down the conveyor. It’s freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer, and no matter how hard I work, there’s always something that I can’t seem to do right. I must admit that this company does provide for my family fairly well. I make a living wage and get a great health insurance package for me and my family for only part-time work.
At the end of this survey was a section for comments. Rarely do I fill out the comment section of things like this because, they are rarely read or taken seriously. Today, however, I decided to mention something that has been bothering me for years: the difference between policies that we are told must be adhered to, and the ‘policies’ that are written nowhere, but are communicated regularly and clearly. The things to do that actually get the job done, but which are completely incompatible with the written policies. Let me give you a very simple example. One clear written policy is that boxes should not be stacked upon one another as they could fall and hurt someone. The pace that is set each morning, however, requires one to constantly stack boxes up to be dealt with later in the morning, just so that one can keep up with the rate of boxes coming down the conveyor. I can get on board with the objective, Safety. What I cannot abide is when I am forced into a position in which I cannot be safe, while being told to be safe, in order for the building to meet it’s daily quotas.
We in the church often do this same thing. We talk a great game, but when push comes to shove, our actions speak to our true motives much more loudly then the words we speak. As followers of Christ, we are called to pursue the redemption of all of creation. Unfortunately, we end up spending most of our time policing behavior and judging culture instead of caring for lost and lonely people and mending broken relationships. It should not surprise us then, when the world looks in on the church and wonders why anyone would want to be apart of that mess. It should not surprise us when, even within our churches, people bicker and complain about insignificant things instead of working together to feed and clothe the hungry and poor. Churches that wish to thrive must change this pattern of double talk. No one, inside the church our out, wants to be part of something so twisted and messed up that it’s practicing the exact opposite behavior that is being preached. We must get this right. Before we do anything else. The church exists, not to create policies or police morality, not to have bake sales and chicken bar-b-ques, not to be a social club or meeting place. The church exists to infuse the world with the transformative love and grace of God, which can and will make all things new. It is this love that heals the sick and the wounded, that rights all manner of wrongs, that gives us eyes to see and act when, by our own power and will, we would sit idle and silent. We can no longer merely say that we are concerned with the poor, hungry and homeless, while our actions demonstrate that we care only for ourselves.