Going to the beach is like meeting God.
There’s that moment when you make your way down the path that cuts through the dunes. As you walk further, the quiet noise in the distance gradually becomes a welcome roar. You crane your neck as if unsure it’s all still there. Your pace quickens as the sound rises and the wind grows, and suddenly you’re emptied out into the full, vivid majesty of it all.
And you breathe.
It never fails to level you.
It is never commonplace.
It is always holy ground.
I know that if you’ve been there, you understand exactly what I mean.
I also know that if you haven’t—well you just don’t.
That’s the thing about the ocean: until you experience it no one can explain it to you, and once you have experienced it no one needs to.
The love of God is this way.
For far too long, Christians have been content with telling people about the ocean and believing that is enough.
We’ve spoken endlessly of a God whose lavish, scandalous love is beyond measure, whose forgiveness reaches from the furthest places and into our deepest personal darkness. We’ve spun gorgeous, fanciful tales of a redeeming Grace that is greater than the worst thing we’ve done and available to anyone who desires it. We’ve spoken of a Church that welcomes the entire hurting world openly with the very arms of Jesus.
We’ve talked and talked and talked— and much of the time we’ve been a clanging gong, our lives and shared testimony making a largely loveless noise in their ears.
They receive our condemnation.
They know our protests.
They experience our exclusion.
They endure our judgment.
They encounter our bigotry.
And all of our flowery words begin to ring hollow. It’s little wonder they eventually choose to walk away from the shore, the idea not compelling enough to pursue as delivered through our daily encounters with them.
Church, the world doesn’t need more talking from us. It doesn’t need our sweet platitudes or our eloquent speeches or our passionate preaching or our brilliant exegesis. These are all just words about the ocean and ultimately they fail to adequately describe it.
The world needs the goodness of God incarnated in the flesh of the people who claim to know this good God.
As they meet us, they need to come face to face with radical welcome, with uncaveated love, with counter intuitive forgiveness. They need to experience all of this in our individual lives and in the Church, or they will decide that it is all no more than a beautiful, but ultimately greatly exaggerated story about sand and waves and colors that cannot be described.
Church, stop talking about love while living such bitterness.
Stop speaking of Grace while offering so little of it.
Stop preaching mercy while withholding so much of it.
Be quiet and simply love people the way Christ commands you to love them.
That is how they will know him.
This is the experience that transcends any words.
This is the place that is always holy ground.
Christian, stop talking.
Look people in the eye, take them by the hand, and with your very life—show them the ocean.