“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body,sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:5-8
What could have possibly been in his finished messages that caused such rejection? Or was it that his true compassionate motives fell flat on the dead hearts of his friends? Could it be that they couldn’t agree with what he was saying completely and rejected him instead of accepting him? Maybe this pastor was way off base the normal customs or culture of his day. Or perhaps, just maybe someone was jealous of him and just mishandled the situation.
In any case, they just didn’t know him.
I found out a fact about Vincent Van Gogh recently, you know the one, the well known artist that created many masterpieces that now hang in famous world art galleries. I knew he was a troubled man and fought a long battle of depression. But what I wasn’t aware of was that painting canvases wasn’t his first choice in careers.
He grew up with a passion for preaching, giving of himself and showing Christ to his world. He aspired to be a minister.
“For three years van Gogh single mindedly pursued his calling to the ministry, first as a student of theology and then as a missionary to the coal miners in the Belgian Borinage. Deeply moved by the poverty surrounding him, Van Gogh gave all his possessions, including most of his clothing, to the miners. Van Gogh admired Christ’s humility as a common laborer and “man of sorrows” whose life he tried to imitate. “Jesus Christ is the Master who can comfort and strengthen a man,” he wrote.” (www.davidpaulkirkpatrick.com/2013)
A member from his evangelical church council made an assessment about his actions and determined that his behavior was outrageous, borderline scandalous, and turned him into the higher church authorities. In other words in today’s Francis Chan lingo, he had Crazy Love for those who had needs and went all David Platt Radical by giving it all away. The mishandling of his actions and the incorrect assessments of his motivations literally changed his trajectory for a lack of support and encouragement from the church. “Although van Gogh was successful in his ministry, the hierarchy of the Dutch Reformed Church rejected him, and at the end of 1879 he left the church, embittered and impoverished. “I wish they would only take me as I am, he confessed in a letter to his brother.” (www.davidpaulkirkpatrick.com/2013)
I don’t know why this story is so shocking to me. I’ve seen plenty of good Christians wounded by their own. I have two words for you…“Stop it!” While Van Gogh grew embittered with the lack of compassion by organized religion, he did not abandon God as the church had abandoned him. He wrote,” I think it a splendid saying of Victor Hugo’s, ‘Religions pass away, but God remains’.
Van Gogh left his occupation and went on to develop his talent as an artist. But I dare to think this rejection had to deeply affect his future. Rejection by comrades in the your circle of influence can do damage in more ways than you think. And the long term affect if not dealt with properly is depression.
Honestly friends, aren’t we all looking for our place in this world? Of all places that needs the most open of doors is that of the organized religious church. With the public headlines today, my heart hurts at how many stones are hurled for speaking out for righteousness and truth. And how unforgiving actions are fueled by anger and propelled by wounding words.
I dare say I am embarrassed when I hear about it.
Perhaps because I know that if we realized how much power our words have, we would use them wisely and think about what we say first and then decide if they should be spoken. Perhaps, a bit of encouragement and getting to know the heart behind Van Gogh would have changed his ideas about religion. Perhaps, he wouldn’t have sunk into a pit of depression that lead to an early suicidal death at the age of 37. Perhaps, if we knew and accepted him for the brilliant talent that was inside of him, he could have changed us.
Perhaps if we only loved people where they were, we would show people the love that covers a multitude of our own sins and casts out all our fears. Perhaps, if we didn’t judge people so harshly and then cast them off as trash or used goods, this world would have more art. Perhaps if we just loved people who are unlovable 24/7 and those hard to love abusers, well, perhaps if we saw them through the eyes of Jesus, and if we saw our own sin, perhaps we would be more forgiving.
Perhaps Van Gogh could have made a longer difference alive than giving into a depressing death. Perhaps if we love like Jesus and lead with a heart of love instead of ugly pride we could influence more lives for the kingdom.
Where in the Bible does it say you have to be cleaned up before you come to Jesus? Perhaps we should take a tip from the One who knows us better than we can know ourselves, AND died while we were yet sinners, to sort out the sin tally stuff. Perhaps Jesus, my Savior is a better sorter of sin.
Perhaps we should use our freedom of speech for noticing the good instead of noticing the no-good in others.
Even when the message of Christ is rejected, and in a world where we are “disheartened by our religious institutions” we shouldn’t give up on the holiness and love found in God. He never rejects and always reflects a pure love that has room for everyone.
Come just as you are…