Bologna Summer Mission · Christian

A letter to the Church

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” – John 1:14-18

Hey there, friends. I’m back in America after living in Italy for 5 weeks. I know I said I’d post while there, but I had working wifi for about 3 days and no more. Sorry about that. But here we go.

Dear Church,

The moment I landed in America, I was overwhelmed with messages and media. I’ve been disconnected from all things American culture for the past month. Coming back to the outrage about Confederate flags, racial shootings, and the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage has been absolutely exhausting and incredibly discouraging. I can’t tell you how much peace I felt away from all of this; however, I’m back now so I have to face it.

I want you all to know that the main reason for students in Bologna not believing in God was hatred of the Italian Catholic Church. I grew very weary of talking about the Church. Just to be clear, a few students did differentiate between the Church as God’s people and the Church as an institution. The problem was with the institution. The problem was them growing up in oppressive, rule-filled environments and not being taught about love and grace. The problem was the Church having so much political power in Italy. The problem was members of the Church being narrow-minded and not focusing on things that truly matter.

The more we try to push a political agenda in the name of Jesus the more we are pushing people away from Him and toward the hatred of that institution. I met one Christian student on campus this summer. One. Out of 90,000. That number should break your heart and if it doesn’t, you need to rethink your priorities.

I can’t even count the social media fights and rude comments I’ve read in my 3 days being back in the U.S. from Christians and non-Christians alike. So let me ask you this.

Is flying your flag more important than leading people to Jesus? Is pushing your political agenda more important than leading people to Jesus?

I invite you to read this passage from the book of Luke, chapter 11.

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

My friend once wrote that God is bigger than any government could ever be, and if you really believe that, you wouldn’t be so up in arms every time a new law is passed or every time the Senate or the court or the Pres makes a decision.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to fight sinners; Jesus came to defeat sin. And ultimately He did. So calm down. Jesus still wins in the end; He remains the ultimate victor.

There is a difference in standing up for the word of God and being a modern-day Pharisee just like the teachers of the law in this passage. There is a difference in lovingly pointing out sin and hatefully passing judgment that isn’t yours to pass.

I don’t want to see my country turn into Italy. I love Italy. It’s really great and beautiful, but I didn’t find a lot of hope in some of the students I talked to. I don’t find a lot of hope in Americans either. I, however, have a hope. I have a hope in the love and sacrifice of Jesus and that’s what I want for you.

I want you to know that the main message of Christianity is that you are so incredibly loved and you are so incredibly forgiven. You are made pure and clean by the death and resurrection of the God-man named Jesus. It is a free gift that is available for your acceptance.

The rules come in after this acceptance and they aren’t followed out of obligation; they are followed out of thankfulness for this gift and the realization that God has your best interest in mind when He commands such things. And when they aren’t followed, it is forgiven. Even when you are at your worst, it is forgiven. That’s how grace works.

Gay marriage is legal in America now. It’s done. The Court has spoken. You’re allowed to be unhappy with the decision and you’re allowed to have an opinion, but think about the message you are sending. Ask yourself if your words and actions are drawing someone into the sweet embrace of Jesus. People come to Jesus by experiencing His love. Show it.

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