The Bible says that in the latter days people's hearts will fail them because of fear. This has proven to be true as we see fear all around us. Every day, we're bombarded with news telling us about the dangers that await us. Even the church has developed a fortress mentality as it waits for Jesus to sneak us out of this world in the rapture. So, instead of being the light of the world, we see a weak and struggling church which is making very little difference in the world.
This world is a dangerous place and there is much out there that is waiting to snuff the life and light out of the church. I believe that nothing much will change until we become oases of safety, places where people can be refreshed by the love of God. There's a song whose lyrics say, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." That may sound very clique but it's true. The world is looking for an authentic display of love.
Unfortunately, much of the church has not proven to be places of safety. Even believers struggle to feel loved and accepted. There are exceptions but instead of being oases of love and acceptance, many churches have become places where people receive more wounding. Those who do struggle are made to feel guilty about their struggles.
Guilt is always followed by shame. So, Jesus came to free us from shame because he knew that shame separates us from God. It's not that God turns away from us but, in our shame, we put on our fig leaves and we hide from him. So, we'll never really be free until we can take off the masks of pretense and be who we really are, flaws and all. The church is supposed to be places where we can learn to do this, places where we're loved unconditionally by those who will help us walk through the messes of life to healing and wholeness.
I'm learning that in this life I'll never be perfect but I'm also learning to accept my humanness and that I'm okay the way I am. Those broken areas of my life where I struggle and just can't seem to get it together, I have to leave to God and allow him to bring healing. I believe as we learn to live freely in God's love and to accept ourselves, we'll then be able to accept others. Laying down expectations can be a real challenge but people want to be accepted without any strings attached. I believe it's critical that we become oases of safety where people are not afraid to be real because it's only through living authentically in this world that others will be made whole. As sappy as it may sound, the world really does need love because only where we feel loved do we feel safe enough to be real.
To get a picture of what these safe places look like, I believe these two books may be helpful: "Bo's Cafe" and "The Secret Life of Bees."
You might also want to read my two previous posts about safe places, "A safe place to heal" and "A safe place."