“Not all who wander are lost” is a line from the poem All that is gold does not glitter, written by J. R. R. Tolkien for The Lord of the Rings.
That famous quote is thought-provoking and it should be. I know that in being transparent with what is in my heart today will cause me to point fingers at mainstream Christianity. That is not easy for me because I am part of that family and I love my Christian brothers and sisters deeply. But, I am still rebellious enough to speak up when I think something needs to be said. I am someone that has been in need of radical grace and someone who has received plenty. I have devoted my life to sharing God’s crazy love, and radical grace with those many won’t consider stepping out to befriend. I thank God for this great desire, because honestly– it’s kept me grounded in reality. For a few years there when all I did was read the Word, attend church, and a ton of Christian outings and activities– I became a product of that circle. Not that it is a bad thing– not at all, but there is something that takes place when you GO into the world and walk with those who live there. There is something to be said about doing life with people who don’t look like you. I’m so grateful for that. And yet— many of those in Christian circles would say this is a slippery slope. They view the world as a “mission trip” an agenda so to speak to go save the lost, not befriend them.
The dictionary says this.
#1. Unable to find one’s way. #2. Denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered.
This bothers me. It bothers me a LOT. The problem isn’t so much the interpretation of “reaching the lost” as much as it is our mentality, the verbiage, and agenda we embrace. In embracing this agenda, we lose sight of authenticity in relationships and establishing trust through unabandoned friendship in exchange for the mission of saving the lost. Boy, we get it wrong. So, just how do you “save the lost”? Tell me. Because I am going to say to you that when I was living in the world if you would have called me “lost,” I probably would have punched you. It’s such a demeaning label. And yet I hear it from Christians all the time. As a matter of fact this past week I did a google search and ended up on a church website that said this:
The mission of this outreach is to minister to women that have fallen victim to the adult entertainment industry.
“Fallen victim.” Ouch.
I get it, I’ve been part of this faith long enough to know that these folks mean well– but really? The dancers I know don’t believe they are victims. Am I saying that some are not? Am I saying that exploitation doesn’t exist, or bad things don’t happen to these women? NO! I am not saying that. What I am saying is choose your verbiage more carefully. This language is some kind of internal language that those who are not part of your club will not understand. It’s a demeaning phrase even if not intentional. Seriously, what you think is lost may not be at all.
I’ve heard many debates on this, but I have met women who knew the Lord and still ended up working in the adult entertainment business. I know the Lord and have made choices that I am certain others would disagree with, and perhaps some might even question my salvation. But when it comes down to it– If indeed you are called to “save people,” tell me how your communication will effectively allow that to happen?
Same goes for the term “Living in darkness.” What you think is darkness may be more of a safe place to someone than you can even imagine. But we don’t think outside of our boxes, we just embrace this language, often without thinking what we must sound like to those who are within earshot. So, back to that church website, I referred to a few moments ago– what if those whom they were visiting and sharing the love of God with in the adult industry decided to check them out and ended up reading that? What do you think they would think? You think that they would feel respected, cherished, valued and chosen? I don’t. You put a victim label on someone, and that is not anymore empowering than what you say you are aiming to do.
My baby brother from another mother died 2 years ago in a hit and run accident. The funeral was impressive, for lack of a better word. You see, my little bro hadn’t been “attending” a church building in a few years even though he was raised in a home of undeniable faith. Even though he knew of Jesus and had attended church his whole life. Was he lost? Had he “forsaken the assembly of fellowship?” So many questions were asked by those who loved him deeply because we are selfish. We can’t stand the thought that we may never see our beloved again so we allow fear to set in and shape our thinking about where he might have been with God the night of the accident. Isn’t that what we do? We are conditioned to believe that you must look a certain way to get through the pearly gates, to be in this club, but that is NOT what Jesus said.
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
My brother loved God, and he loved people. He gave his heart to Jesus as a boy. He may have forsaken what mainstream Christianity calls the “assembly of saints” in the latter years, but my brother was loving people of all walks of life. He was a friend to many. He would lend a hand to anyone in need. He helped to brighten the days of those carrying heavy loads. He enjoyed laughter, and he was a kind soul. He actually was more like Jesus than most people I know, and I am so thankful for his example in my life. Oh, the things that were said by SO many at his funeral was just incredible. It left me without any doubt that my brother was not lost.
Here’s my bottom line. Love God, love others. L O V E without agenda– just BE & GO! Meet people where they are. Get to know them. Ask about their dreams. Find things you have in common, make a connection. Be a friend.
Featured article by Strip Church Director, Michelle Russell.