This is a short section from Jen Hatmaker's latest book FOR THE LOVE...it grabbed me and presents a beautiful and compelling way for us to look at what we present as the way Jesus followers should live and what we should be doing...read it and be challenged...and then read the rest of the book!
It has taken me forty years to assess the difference between the gospel and the American evangelical version of the gospel. Those were one of the same for ages-no takes backs, no prisoners, no holds barred. I filtered the kingdom through my upper middle class, white, advantaged, denominational lens, and by golly, I found a way to make most of it fit! (It was a complicated task, but I managed. Please be impressed.)
But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.
There is a biblical benchmark I use now. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is: If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.
If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians in Africa, India, China, South America, Russia, rural Appalachia, inner city America, and everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor. If it isn’t true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.
If doctrine elevates a woman’s married-with-children status as her highest calling, it isn’t true, because that omits single believers (whose status Paul considered preferable), widows, the childless by choice or fate or loss, the divorced, and the celibate gay. If these folks are second –class citizens in the kingdom because they aren’t married with children, the God just excluded millions of people from gospel work, and I guess they should just eat rocks and dies. If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, then it isn’t true.
Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.