I want to share a story that I have told a few times, but each time it was told I left out a key part. Not because I was trying to hide anything, but because there were other points I was trying to make in the account at the time and this particular part wasn’t important for the other points.
But I believe it is time for this part of the story to be told… because the lesson in it is incredibly powerful.
Over a decade ago a friend and I believed that we should start an organization called Taking Back America. We believed that the very best thing for America was for Christians to mobilize politically and make a stronger united effort to influence our governments, schools, and other institutions “for the cause of Christ.” We were very excited about this endeavor and were planning to have a huge kick-off event with some national political speakers who were Christians and some nationally recognized Christian musical acts.
With the planning underway and a few speakers already committed, I contacted a particular artist management company to line up a particular musician. I spoke to several different people at this company, telling them all about what we were doing and why we were doing it. I sent them our information and they told me that they would get back with me within a couple of weeks, but they never did.
Frustrated, as this was the last piece of the puzzle we needed to begin promoting the event, I called the agency back in order to find out what was taking so long. The lady with whom I had been speaking over the previous weeks finally passed the call over to the agency director. The subsequent conversation left me completely frustrated and confused.
The director started by saying that he did not believe that the musician we were trying to book necessarily agreed with what we were doing or how we were doing it. Perplexed, I asked him to be more specific. He said that neither he nor the musician believed that it was a good thing for Christianity to advance politically, adding that they did not think America necessarily had to be “taken back for Christ” by the means we were suggesting.
I continued to press him because I could not understand what he was saying. It was not computing. It would not register. I could not imagine that there could be such a person who did not believe that Christians ought not take America back and “restore it to the Christian values and ideals that we once had.” Even more frustrated, I asked him how, exactly, we ought to move forward as Christians in America if we do not do it politically. He told me something I will never forget. He said, “The Kingdom of God is not dependant upon any political or governmental institution to move forward.”
This leads me to the part of the story that I have never written about before but that I now believe is important to share. But I before tell you how he responded to me and what he said… let me simply say this: when a person or a group of people believe that they have special knowledge or information, or that they have superior insight into a subject or a particular view, or that they have experienced a moment of clarity or enlightenment… there is a temptation to look down on others who do not have this special knowledge, superior insight, or shared enlightenment.
What I was about to receive was the most despicable form of judgment and lack of grace I have ever experienced.
In response to my serious lack of understanding to his perspective and my continued questioning for clarity, he said, “People like you will never get it.”
And that was like a dagger in my heart. Ugh.
While on one hand, that was the first time anyone who had a very different perspective of the way, life, and message of Jesus had confronted me on my limited perspective of how a Christian should think, act, and behave in our country. Even further, that was the first time anyone had ever mentioned the Kingdom of God to me. It was the first time anyone had ever suggested that God could work and move in the world in ways that were different than anything I had ever known or expected…and it certainly got my attention.
But on the other hand, I was ANGRY. On that day, I would have socked that guy in the mouth if we had both been in the same state! Not only had he challenged my perspective that the United States ought to be a Christian nation and that it should be done politically, but he did it in a way that absolutely killed me on the inside. I felt so small… so belittled… and so angry.
Even in my anger, I had to at least admit that my view may have been limited because I had never known or heard anything about the Kingdom of God. I had never heard that the Kingdom of God was a present in-breaking reality in the lives of those who follow the sacrificial way of Christ. I had never been confronted with Jesus and his upside-down Kingdom message. And I certainly didn’t realize that day how this Kingdom and Christ’s Lordship in my life would change my allegiances, my values, and they way I live and extend it each moment and with every breath I take.
The guy on the other end of the line had information that I needed. He had knowledge of something for which I was seeking and asking. He must have had a moment of enlightenment at one point of his life in order to know about something so beautiful and so radical and so revolutionary… but in his arrogance and judgment and lack of grace… he slammed the door to the Kingdom of God in my face… and told me I would never get it.
Well, I did eventually get it. And it was with very little help from the man who wrote me off as a lost cause.
I understand the tendency to feel as if we have superior knowledge and information and that everyone else needs to get a clue. I am guilty as charged too many times in my life. The issue isn’t having knowledge, information, or a moment of clarity or enlightenment… it is what we do with it… and how we treat people in the process. I know there are tons and tons of people in our lives who frustrate us because we think that they will always have their fingers in their ears and their eyes closed tightly. I get it. But if we are to be honest, God never gives up on anyone as a lost cause. And if the reign of God is to permeate through our hearts, minds, and souls… then we can’t give up on even the most hard headed, hard hearted, stubborn mule of a person. Right?
Even further, I know that I write a ton about the misgivings and misalignment of the Church. I know at times it may feel like I am writing off the Church and the beautiful people that make it up. But I write and share what I have discovered, not because I don’t think you will ever get, but because I know that you can get it… and I will never give up trying to help you find this beautiful treasure of the Kingdom of God.
The way of the Kingdom is not about discovering riches and then looking down on people as destitute paupers who have no share in the riches. Rather, the Kingdom is about discovering the riches and then humbly and lovingly realizing that all are entitled to share in the treasure together.
Don’t give up on anyone…