Reflection on Jon Foreman’s Open Letter to the American Church

Linda | January 23, 2017

Picture of a church

There is much to be said about today’s church in America. The body of Christ, as it is called in the Bible or the family of God can reflect God by spreading his love and grace but it doesn’t always act in love and mercy. Why? Well, as Jon points out in his song, Terminal, it is made up of people who are “fatally flawed” while at the same time being “in the image of God”. If we call ourselves Christians, we have great privilege but also a great responsibility.

Jon’s Article, published in the Huffington Post, entitled An Open Letter to The American Church really provokes us to examine ourselves as the “body of Christ” A healthy check up to determine what state we are in and to identify whether a change in perspective is needed. He begins the article by identifying himself, “American Church, I am you”, he declares. Admitting that he “wrestles with the faith of his fathers, from glory to shame” he goes on to repent of his own personal sins and failures as part of the church of God. Jon assures us that he has no stones to throw, as we the church, including himself, are human and flawed. He, however, doesn’t allow this flawed state as a reason for excusing our behavior.

In this country of unrest, hate, and violence, Jon brings us to the mirror to examine our own behavior. Are we as Christians reflecting God or do we engage in spewing careless, unloving words. That look in the mirror can really be an eye opener! Jon asks, “Oh church, who has blinded us? Know this, it’s not your hatred that makes you godlike. It’s not your fear. It’s not your political rhetoric tossed back and forth on social media. No. It’s your love that makes you look like God.” Switchfoot’s song, The Sound (John M. Perkin’s Blues) is dedicated to the civil rights leader and pastor, whose powerful quote, “Love is the final fight” encapsulates the way of God in fighting our battles. Jesus did not fight for our salvation with violence and hateful words. He spoke the truth in love. He humbled himself and suffered for us, who he counted as a worthwhile cause. We the American church should follow his example.

With compassion, mercy, and grace Jon’s love for people shines through. His heart his for the hurting, the broken, the needy of this world.  His insightful statement, “The kingdom of the heavens is waiting in the wounds around us” gives us another perspective on how to spread God’s kingdom in America by caring for the wounded. Not only wounded or sick physically but also emotionally and spiritually. Switchfoot’s recent song, The Wound is Where the Light Shines Through brings this same perspective to light. Wasn’t this the heart of Jesus? He spent time with those in need, stating that those that those that are healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick and needy.  He offered hope and love where it was lacking. Are we the American church acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for those that are in need? Are we being the visible body of Christ and bringing glory to him by our words and actions? Sometimes we do and other times we are a poor reflection of his grace and mercy.

Jon ends the article with a reminder of our debt. “We have a debt that remains outstanding: to love our neighbor as ourself.” This he got from Romans 13:8 in the Bible. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” God loves us and gave it all so we could be forgiven. He paid our debt of sin in full. Fulfilling our debt to love should be our response to his great sacrifice. So will we pay up on our debt of love toward others, American church?