I’m sorry for all the times you’ve felt like we as Christians only cared about making sure your “soul goes to Heaven,” instead of caring holistically for you as an authentic, holistic, dimensional person whose person-ality comes from the Trinitarian God in whose image you were formed.
I’m sorry for all the cliché, overused, and sometimes downright ridiculous phrases you have heard Christians say.
I’m sorry for every time you’ve received a “God bless” instead of a helping hand, an “I will pray for you” instead of someone to simply listen.
I’m sorry for the truly boring literature, movies, and art we often produce—the movies that feel like Hallmark cards, the songs that repeat the same few phrases over and over again, without genuine substance. We who believe in a grand and holy meta-narrative somehow are capable of writing some of the dullest, most repetitious narratives in the world. I believe at the heart of Christianity is not just truth but deep, creative beauty, and many times we have substituted instead art that does not reflect an artistic God or an aesthetic Gospel.
I’m sorry that we are often the least proactive and the most complacent when it comes to caring about the environment—a true irony since it as a Christians that we believe in the intentionality with which God created the world and the necessity of environmental stewardship.
I’m sorry for all the times you’ve heard street preachers or protesting Christians shout messages of condemnation, leading others to conclude that Christianity must be a religion centrally about how one must constantly be better than one knows how to be.
I’m sorry for all the times you’ve walked into a church and felt as if you must hide your deepest self.
I’m sorry for all the times my love has been more selfish than selfless, more about making my life feel meaningful than about truly loving you in a way that reflects Christ’s unconditional love.
I’m sorry for the ways our faith has become a shield and a wall behind which we can hide, group together, and form clubs, ministries, churches, schools, friend groups—entire societies so impenetrable that it would be possible to live out our lifetimes from within the safety of our own walls. I’m sorry that we have used our communities to hem ourselves in more than to reach out in love and grace.
I’m sorry for how we are often the stingiest, least financially generous people on the planet.
I’m sorry that we have not stood up louder and longer for causes of injustice—racial division, police shootings, poverty, global disasters, mass incarceration, homelessness, political, ethnic, and religious strife in the Middle East, genocide, the desperation of the widow, the fear of the marginalized, the pain of the lonely.
I’m sorry that many of us, myself included, have been too content with our handful of Scripture passages and our weekly prayer meetings that we have not truly engaged our minds with the complexities of faith. We have not studied commentaries in order to discuss honestly with you the nuances of the bible; we have not challenged each other to think critically about issues of faith and theology; we have not taken your questions seriously enough to engage them with our whole selves, trusting instead that “the Word of God is living and active” and will do the work for us if it is.
I’m sorry for the ways in which we can take anything and Christianize it—thus creating Christian brands of absolutely everything—which is not so much wrong as it is misleading, as if “Christian” is simply a category we can create by sticking on a bible verse or a cross, when in actuality the Gospel is a subversive, paradoxical, and catalyzing truth that soaks into the depths of who we are, wrings us inside out, speaks life into dark places and grace into dead places, and leaves us not so much newly labelled as newly created.
I’m sorry for the ways we have not been intentional with our words, resulting either in falsity or mediocrity. We believe that God Himself is the Word, the first Word and the last Word, and by Him, language itself is a gift, capable of astounding beauty and astounding devastation. The words of Christians should be creative, flowing, meaningful, authentic, not predictable and merely (if even) adequate. We have not been responsible with our words. We have said things hastily. We have said things too easily.
I’m sorry for the way we think we have an iron-clad grasp on what is true. We dismiss the Muslim’s piety with far too little trembling; we denounce the agnostic as too much of a skeptic, when we could benefit with some skepticism ourselves. There is a necessary tension between truth that must, by definition, be exclusive, and therefore dismiss all other contrasting views as false, and truth that seeks to include everything as a reflection of itself; we are sorry for not leaning into that tension, for not admitting that we do not know, and for choosing instead to call wrong everything that does not sound and look just like us.
There is so much to ask forgiveness for. We have caused deep hurt and anger, and it is a reminder of the power of our beliefs—not just our beliefs as Christians, but belief itself—to wound as much as to woo. We are fragile, flawed, and fearful people, far more human that we sometimes want to be, and yet we believe also that we are forgiven, by God—and by God’s grace, by you. We hope that Yancey’s words are true, and that though we are not perfect by any means, we are indeed people who can be made truly alive. We hope that the messenger does not invalidate the message. Or perhaps we hope that we the messengers have become the message, not so much preaching forgiveness as being objects of it. Perhaps it is by the world’s grace toward us, we who have so often wounded in our effort to heal, that the message of Christianity is most astoundingly revealed.