Losing Lament

In yesterday’s post I shared some thoughts on the way our celebrity obsession and cancel culture has kicked the doors in and taken a seat in the church, as it does so influencing and warping our culture. We crave the big and significant and so we want leaders who are known, we want to be associated with something big and famous. But we also don’t know how to handle the failures of those very same people and so we’re quick to cancel, or are cynically knowing when sin comes to light, or gloat if we’re not pastored by a celebrity pastor. Neither are an attractive look for the church of Jesus Christ.

But there’s another facet of the cultural air that we breath that has more influence than it should in our churches. We fear mourning and we’ve lost lament. I don’t just mean when it comes to the end of life or of loss or unfulfilled hopes – that’s also an issue but it’s a topic for a separate post. I mean in terms of mourning for our sin and the impact of sin on those we know and love, on our churches and more generally in a broken world.

When did you last mourn over your sin? Last feel that deep conviction of sin that you can’t escape or anaesthetise with entertainment or some other distraction? That feeling that drives you, like David in Psalm 51, to a deep searching of the heart that dispenses with excuses or reasons or buts, and is struck once again by the deep rootedness horror of sin in your heart and life? When did that last lead you to mourn your sin not just run to Jesus with a glib I’m sorry? When did you last honestly take an unfiltered look at your heart, your motives, your loves and name sin when you see it as sin?

There are lots of reasons why we struggle with this. We fill our days full of noise, we keep busy, we rush from thing to thing. Even when we come to church it’s often having just rushed from something and squeezing it in before we rush to something else. We don’t allow time to be still, to be quiet, to stop, for deep examination of our souls, of our sin, of our spiritual state. We plan to hear God’s word but not for it to do it’s deep work of opening up, examining and exposing the soul and spirit. We don’t come to God’s word expecting to have our sins exposed, we come for a quick spiritual vitamin shot of grace and love to get us through another day or week. We also live a filtered life, lets be honest we filter out so much of the brokenness, so much of the suffering in our world. And not just in terms of our news feeds but in terms of the relationships we inhabit and in terms of ourselves. We don’t look to deeply because we’re afraid of what we’ll see..

All of this means that as a church we don’t know how to mourn sin. We’ve lost our ability to lament. To lament the impact of our own sin on our hearts and emotions and spiritual state, how it separates us from God’s presence and the joy that is found in him. To lament the impact of our sin on others, the harm and hurt it has caused, the rippling outward of sins consequences from our sinful actions. To lament the impact of our sin on the world’s view of the church, the gospel and our Saviour.

Just like a muscle atrophies with a lack of use so our ability to lament. And so when a pastor or leader fails we don’t know how to react. Some cancel. Some clap. Few leaders, leaderships or churches have the ability to lament. To mourn and be broken over sin, to humbly wrestle with sins consequences. Fewer still do it not just when the crisis hits but regularly. Examining hearts together, allowing the horror of sin to lead them to lament sin’s deep rootedness, it’s ability to wound, cut off, isolate, destroy, and separate us from joy in God. What if part of the rediscovery of healthy church cultures was learning to lament again.

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