Throughout the Old and New Testaments there are instances where people literally were so upset that they tore at their clothes. In all instances it came at a time where a person was so distressed, so grieved by what was happening around them, that they literally tore at their clothing, sometimes stripping them off and other times leaving them in shreds.
There were instances where this occurred because someone was mourning a death. Others were instances where someone anointed by God was mourning over the behavior of those around them, particularly in response to lack of faithfulness or disobedience by God’s people.
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
Rend = tear (something) into two or more pieces.
The Lord wants us to come to Him with our broken hearts. And more importantly God wants what breaks our heart, to be the same thing that breaks His. Because, when we are broken for God… we are bound to act on His behalf to heal those wounds.
We feed, clothe and shelter the needy.
We rescue those in despair.
We support and encourage the broken in spirit.
While my heart breaks for these people…. I have never been broken to the point of tearing at my clothes for them. I never understood that part of scripture, being so broken by this world that I would literally tear at myself, with my own two hands.
Then it happened the 1st time. But, I admit I wasn’t grieved for God. It was a result of an argument with my husband. It was the only time, he ever walked out of our bedroom and slept on the couch. The argument was stupid, to be honest, we were both wrong in allowing something so ridiculous to escalate to that point. I began to weep in a way that I had never known in my life. And I felt my hands grasping at my clothes. My husband heard my cries and returned to me. He could feel my despair, he was broken by my tears. We apologized and reconciled. It has never happened again. But I learned a lot in that moment, I learned how much I loved my husband… more than I ever realized. I realized how important our marriage was to me. I also realized and accepted my part in what brought us to that moment. I saw the man whom I was angry at, return to me and become tender and compassionate. I saw him accept his role in our argument. We vowed to never come to this place again. And, we haven’t.
For the first time, I understood the actual physicality of that type of grief, mentioned in the bible so many times. I understood what it meant to be so broken that you would literally tear the clothes off your body. It would be several years later that I would experience this grief again, but this time… I was not grieving for myself. I was grieving for God.
It had been a culmination of things. I was being hit from different directions by Christians in my life, who were claiming to know what a “good Christian” does and doesn’t do. In some cases they were united in their attack on a certain subject, in other times they were divided. Through online media sources, I would see more and more about Christians attacking other Christians. People who are good willed, good natured people… just trying to get it right. My heart began to break. Slowly. Then, all at once. I was overwhelmed by emotion. I found myself in my hall way, leaned against a wall, tearing at my clothes and weeping…. deep heaping sobs…. the only words coming out of my mouth were to God… asking “WHY?”
I can’t even tell you how long this happened for, it felt like an eternity. My heart was literally broken. I spoke my heart to God that day.
A week or two later, I was taking a spiritual gifts test. When it came time to look at my scores, I wasn’t really surprised by the results. Gift of Administration, yeah.. I saw that coming. But I was very sad, as I saw my score for Evangelism was so low. I went to my mentor, to discuss this with her, because I was obviously failing at the great commission. I mean, how do we go out and share the gospel… if we don’t… go out… and share the gospel.
It was in this conversation with my mentor, for the first time, I vocalized my broken heart for the church. I told her that I found myself with greater concern over the division within the church, than I was about those who were not believers. As we explored this topic… I broke down in tears. She asked me why I was crying, and I said “It breaks my heart, because they should know better.”
After a hug and some encouragement, and my lamenting that I really wished we had a person writing to churches on behalf of God…. she said, “You need to pray about what to do with this.”
She didn’t try and change me, or point me in the direction of evangelism. She recognized that my heart was breaking, for something that was breaking God’s heart. The question was, “now what?”.
I do not feel of any authority to write any particular church. Who would listen to me? Who am I? But the question of “now what?” lingered.
My broken heart could not be mended if I sat complacent. Indecisive. Wallowing in my grief.
I prayed for peace.
Then I did the exact thing that people who have a gift for administration and teaching would do… I researched. I turned to google with search topics like “letters to the churches of America”… “broken for the churches in America”… “the church breaks my heart”.
I found two very surprising things.
1) I was not alone. There are others who are grieving with me. Other people who were broken hearted about how we were treating one another, how divided we were. Wondering, where was the unity that we should have in Christ?
2) Not a single one of these letters were filled with any sort of hate speech. There were not letters written by churches like “Westboro Baptist Church”. These were letters filled with love for God, love for people, and great pain at what was being witnessed in the church. Written by every day people like you and I.
And as I poured through blog posts, articles, pastors websites, etc…. everything funneled back to one thing….DIVISIVENESS.
We, as a church, are supposed to be UNITED with each other UNDER God’s authority, UNDER the blood of Christ, and UNDER the direction of the Holy Spirit.
We, as a church, are supposed to be IN the world, but not OF the world. To stand apart from the world, to be seen as different…. salt, light. Yet, not to be absent from it, walled up in our cities built by man made rules, regulations, and standards.
We, as the church, are too busy fighting amongst ourselves about the most ridiculous of subjects, that we are seen as nothing more than hypocrites, fools and full of hate.
No wonder the world sees us as hate filled… when we can’t even love our brothers and sisters in Christ!
We stand divided on issues that in the grand scheme of salvation bear NOT ONE SHRED OF IMPORTANCE.
God, doesn’t care if your baptism is a sprinkle or a dunk, in a cement baptismal or in the open ocean.
God, doesn’t care what the name of your denomination is, so long as it is a bible believing & teaching church. God doesn’t care how you feed your babies, teach your children, decorate your home, as much as he cares that WE HAVE OUR EYES TURNED TO CHRIST! In fact, that is the ONLY THING that matters. That is the ONLY THING that is important.
We care. We think our way is right, best and we will defend it against anyone who questions otherwise…. and even those who don’t. In fact we are almost offensive with it. Not offensive, as in rude, inappropriate. But offensive, like in football…. aggressive.
I realized that God was breaking my heart for what breaks His. He is broken over the divisiveness in our churches and amongst Christians. He is broken hearted over the infighting between each other, which keeps us from being the love, light and salt He asked of us. We put so much effort in defending ourselves and our beliefs/traditions/denominations/etc…. that we have nothing left to represent him with.
We are told in the scriptures to clothe ourselves with kindness, gentleness, compassion, etc.
Yet we spew venom at each other.
We are told in the scriptures to think of what is good, noble, pure, worthy, etc.
Yet we spend our time pointing at everything that is “wrong” in the world, without pointing to what is right.
We are told in the scriptures that the blessed are the meek, the poor, the peacemakers, etc.
Yet we spend more time attacking others and defending ourselves, than loving and helping.
We have allowed topics like… baptism procedure, bible translations, schooling choices, baby feeding, become SPIRITUAL debates. We fight amongst each other, and take our eyes off of Jesus.
And the scariest part to me? We don’t realize it is happening. We stand in our righteousness, not realizing we are being played by Satan … like puppets on strings.
The battle is not between YOU and I over human decisions. The battle is between US and Satan. Because ANYTHING that distracts us from Jesus, is a victory for him. Anything that causes division between us, creates division between us and Jesus. Anything that causes us to sin against each other, creates a veil between us and God. Anything that causes us pain, pains God.
WE break God’s heart every day.
And we, as His children, hurt Him more than any non-believer. When a neighborhood child said “I hate you” or disobeys my rules, I don’t like it. But, it’s not a big deal to me. You can’t follow my rules, you are not welcome here. End of story. But, when one of MY CHILDREN says those words… or disobey me… it hurts. When I hear one of my children yell to their sibling “I hate you”…. it hurts. My heart breaks, and I immediately intervene and being the process of reconciliation.
I imagine God feels even worse, when He witnesses fighting between us… His children.
My heart broke over the divisiveness in the church, amongst Christians.
And I am done. I can’t change you, but I can change ME.
I can only mend my heart by loving, as God has called me to love. By giving the same mercy, grace, love and compassion that God has given to me.
I will not be a divisive Christian any longer.
I choose to be focused on my own sins, my own shortcomings. I have enough to work on in myself, I will leave YOUR WORK to the Holy Spirit.
I will show people Jesus, I will show them Christ through my actions and my life. I will not try and sell them on my version of Jesus & what living with Christ looks like. I will let the Holy Spirit do that. I’ll just handle the introductions & love them. Any work that has to be done, will be in my life and my house. It’s time for me to start whittling away at my plank.