Last night for Good Friday we took time to confess our sins. It was
a bold move for a new church, especially as our first service. Maybe a bit risky, but it happened, and God
showed up. If nothing else, our new church will be grounded in a call to
humility, and for that I’m thankful.
During the service, we talked a lot about how our sins are scarlet
being made as white as snow. This line comes from Isaiah. But it was the verses
read right before this that really stood out to me last night. If you were
there, you might remember:
“Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right;
Seek justice. Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”
Have you ever wondered why sin was described as scarlet? This
passage makes it clear. The people had blood on their hands. Not just because
of what they had done, but because of what they had left undone. They failed to stand up for what was right.
They failed to provide for the most vulnerable.
This hit particularly close to home for Allyssa and me.
We bought a house in Franklinton. It’s a beautiful neighborhood in Columbus with many challenges. Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever lived, I’ve gotten to know
so many of my neighbors. In fact, I talk to just about every person who walks
by my house. And with a bus stop down the street, that’s a lot of people. What
I found interesting is that nearly every person I talk to asks me if our house,
or one of the apartments in our house, or one of the rooms in our house, are
I’m not exaggerating: nearly every person who walks by; nearly
every time I’m outside, whether walking my dog or going to my car, wants to
rent some part of our house.
Most people rent in our neighborhood. And most houses in
Franklinton have been split into apartments. The house we bought isn’t, but
it’s a rather large house for this neighborhood so everyone just assumes it’s
got apartments or at least extra rooms for rent.
I’ve never lived in a neighborhood where it was socially acceptable
to ask a stranger if you can rent a room in their house. It’s almost like the people walking by are
saying: “Wow, that’s a big house. You and your wife and kid don’t need all
those rooms. People are looking for places to stay! Why won’t you share?”
Of course, they aren’t saying
that. I’m just thinking it. Or maybe it’s God speaking to me. Either way, it’s
Jesus says to love our neighbors as ourselves. I have a new
appreciation for what it means to love myself, especially as we fix up an old
house: I want a roof over my head, a clean bathroom, a working kitchen, a
comfortable bed, and a place to relax in front of a TV. That’s what it means to
love myself and to love my family, and I’m working my butt off to make it
But what does it mean to love my neighbor in the same way?
The benefit of
living in a middle-class neighborhood, the country, or in the suburbs is that we often never
really get to know our neighbors and typically if we do, they aren’t looking
to live in our house with us. So when Jesus says to love our neighbors as ourselves, we tend to
interpret that abstractly. We turn it into a metaphor. And in many ways, it
becomes so abstract that it doesn’t really mean anything. That’s not the case
Jesus’ command to love my neighbors as I love myself is now
unavoidable. We have no choice but to make room in our house for those who need
Now, I understand, it’s not as easy as just that. I want Allyssa
and Finn to be safe. There are ways to help people that do more harm than good.
Taking up the cause of the fatherless and defending the oppressed is nuanced
and takes wisdom. But that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. This kind of thinking can’t
be used as an excuse. So I will say this: we are committed to finding a way to
open our home to people who need it. We have a plan, and we’re going to work
with people who have a lot of experience in this regard, including local
shelters, and friends and mentors, Keith Wasserman and others.
That’s not even the point. Here’s my point: We spent a lot of
energy, time and volunteers to put together the Good Friday service. We used a
lot of resources. It took a lot of time to put it all together. And it was worth it. It’s worth organizing services to meet
new people and ultimately worship God. But worshiping God isn’t just about
music, scripture reading, and creative responses. The worship God wants from us is to sacrifice
on behalf of our neighbors. So here’s my declaration: If we don’t invest equal amount of
energy, time, and volunteers to “seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up
the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow,” as we do on weekly
gatherings, we don’t deserve to be a church. It’s
a bold claim, and maybe impossible to live up to, but I could never be more
convicted about it.
We need to be a church that does more than just gather together. We
need to be a church that loves our neighbors as ourselves. And I would go one
step further: we need to be a church that puts ourselves in places where our
neighbors become the people who need our love. Which is why for every connect
card that was turned in at Good Friday, we’re donating $5 toward our local
missions—we’re not sure what that will be yet, but we know that God is calling
us to love this city.
If you want to become a part of a church like this, then I’d invite
you to join us for our next launch team meeting on April 30th at 2:00PM at 1150
W 5th Ave. We’ve got a lot of work ahead
of us, but we know that God is going to do in and through us far more than we
could ever think or imagine.
You can learn more at www.centralcity.co