Along with a great many, I was deeply affected when I heard of the passing of Robin Williams. I sat up last night for a while, reading tweets and Facebook posts, looking at Instagram memorials, and watching video clips being shared from all over the country. I was amazed by the number of people talking about Robin and what his profession as an actor has meant to them. In so many ways, he reached out and touched a great number of people through his humor and talent.
I woke this morning still thinking about this lose, and the impact it is having on so many people. The reports are suggesting that Williams death was suicide by asphyxiation, possibily linked to the depression he was struggling with. One of the posts I read last night went something like, you can't tell whats happening on the inside by simply looking on what's happening on the outside. In Robins case, and for a great many others who suffer with a mental illness, this is true.
To be honest, I have been blessed in that, no one in my family (as far as I know) has ever struggled with depression. And while many whom I know struggle with dression, in 20+ years of ministry, I have never had to counsel or care for someone directly. So depression has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I mean, as a pastor and even a youth pastor, I have had some training and education on the matter, but the why, the what, and the how, have always eluded me.
But this morning as I reflect on the passing of this Hollywood mega-star who has left such an impression on so many people, I wonder if the church is as effective when we think about the impact we are hoping to make in peoples lives. I mean, here the actor dies, and hundreds of thousands are sharing the impact it's leaving in their lives.
But what about the work of church, where are the thousands upon hundreds of thousands sharing testimonies of what the church has done for them? Where are those who have felt the love and support of the church reachinging into their lives when they needed help the most.
Now I am not belittling Williams impact, just wondering where the church is leaving it's impact.
In Patch Adams, a great Robin Williams movie, Robin's character gives a moving monologue as he stands before an examine board who questions his practice of care as a "doctor." Watch this clip.
Right at the end of the clip, he says, "You treat a disease you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you'll win, no matter what." Consider this in the perspective of the church and how we relate with people, particularly those we would say are "outside of the church." How do we reach them? What methodology do we imposs as we attempt to "witnessness" them? Do we simply treat the disease, you are a sinner and must repent? Or do we treat the person and build a relationship with them that leads to real concern and affection?
I mean, we have the cure for the disease of sin; Christ's atoning death and glorious resurrection. So in our case, the win or lose is different. But if we are only out to proclaim the gospel and and get people saved, are we really making an impact.
As a pastor, it might be easier to get up every Sunday before a group a church goers, and preach something that is thought provoking, intelligent, persuasive, and even encouraging. But to go beyond the pulpit and in the community where it is dirty and messy, where our integrity is questioned and our efforts critized, well, now we're getting into something that's a little more difficult. As a Christian, attending church on Sunday morning is easy; you get up, you get dressed, you go to church, then you get on with your day/your week. But to invest in relationships with the people who live around you, who think different from you, who live their lives different from you, who choose lifestyles different from you; that's hard.
But isn't this what Christ does? Doesn't he hang out with the marginalized? Doesn't he cause controversy? Doesn't he pit a Samaritan against a Priest and a Levite and say, the Samaritan was more loving and caring to half-dead man left on the side of the road?
When will we as the church, stop worrying so much about what we look like as the church and begin loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? When we will stop seeing the disease of sin in peoples lives, wondering if it's safe to get involved, and start seeing the person within who simply needs to hear that they are loved first? I mean, what would it look like if we started treating those who are lost, sick, and dying.
What if the church was able to leave the type of impact on society as is now being felt with this passing of Robin Williams? What if we, Christians, even better, DISCIPLES of Jesus, start really living as disciples? What hope would we offer? What life change would come? What would we be able to do? I think it's time to get our hands dirty.
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