For more information on this image and the people behind it, please check out The Marin Foundation.
The activity surrounding the World Vision fiasco has left my heart broken and hurting. Broken and hurting for the very real people who were welcomed in then kicked out, broken and hurting for the thousands of people who love Jesus but felt torn and conflicted about what is “right”, broken and hurting for my heart- the Church- as we stumble and trip and attack each other and get defensive and ultimately defame the precious name of Jesus.
There is enough noise out there. And more than noise, there are people who are way smarter than I will ever be who have much better things to say than I. Go read their words. I’m simply going to tell you about my favorite thing about Jesus.
Here’s my favorite thing about Jesus: He called me, picked me, chose me, while I was still in the middle of my mess. I’m still a sinner, I’m still in my mess, but at least now I say I love Him and confess and believe that He is Savior. He picked me though, when I hated Him. He sought me out when I had nothing to do with Him, made fun of Him, thought nothing of Him, hated His creation (myself) and would look the other way at the mention of His name. That’s when He chose me.
I don’t know how to reconcile that. I don’t know what to do with that in my every day life.
I don’t know how to read passages of Scripture like Mark 2:13-17. Jesus was in the middle of teaching and sees a man straight in sin named Levi. Not only does He approach this man, but He agrees to go to his house and have dinner with him. Jesus then gives Levi a new name, Matthew, and Matthew became one of the 12.
The religious elite, the pastors of the time, gave Jesus such a hard time about this. They questioned Him about it and used it against Him. After all, what kind of God fearing man would do this? What kind of God fearing person would, oh I don’t know, go to the King of Diamonds, walk in, meet a woman on the stage and accept a dinner invitation at her house that night. A dinner where other strippers are present, people are probably lighting up bowls, drinking more than the glass of red with dinner and using all the four letter words. What Godly, upright person would willingly do that?
I mean, if I did that, would I feel comfortable telling my church friends I did that?
Or would I feel the need to put a ton of caveats and asterisks next to it? Oh well, I didn’t drink. I mean, I let them know I don’t approve of the strip club. I didn’t laugh at the dirty jokes. If she doesn’t stop striping it’s not like I’m going to keep being friends with her or do that again.
Why do we, as people who love Jesus, feel the insane need to let people know whether or not we think what they’re doing is right or wrong? Why are we not comfortable and okay enough to imitate Jesus and just have dinner? Are we scared that God is going to be pissed at us if we don’t make sure we get our opinion out lest the sinner thinks we’re okay with all they’re doing?
I think of Peter. Peter, who like me I bet, had a hard time knowing what to do when he watched His leader approach a strip club and take the dirty hand of a woman shaking her breasts for money. Peter, loved Jesus desperately, and that manifested itself for a long time through doing what was “right” and “clean”. A man who associated only with Jews because that was what was right. Even after He loved Jesus, He has an elitist spirit. And hear this, I don’t believe his elitist spirit was born from hate, but rather born from a deep desire to do what is right.
It took God giving Him a vision of all the food Peter knew, as a good Jew, he couldn’t eat. And as God told Peter he could partake of that glorious, good, delicious food, Peter refused. He, like a good, honest, wanting-to-do-the-best-thing-he-knew-to-do man, wholeheartedly told God no. God then told Peter that it wasn’t his place or job or right to call something unclean that which God made clean.
Peter’s whole paradigm and worldview and way of sharing the Gospel changed in that instant. And the world changed with it. For the first time, God made it clear to His boots on the ground that His love, His message, His salvation was for everyone, not just the Jews. And He wanted Peter to stop separating himself from a whole segment of society.
It makes sense that the second after God gave Peter this image and these words, Peter was sent to baptize a Roman Gentile. To touch, to sit down with, to minister to, to serve someone whom Peter spent his entire life avoiding or, at best, not even considering.
I don’t care what you believe about homosexuality. It’s a sin or not. It can be changed or not. Really, no one cares what you believe.
But people care what you do.
Jesus cares what we do.
Me, Peter, the Church – we all need to stop living in fear. Fear of not letting people know what we think or how we feel or what we’re not totally okay with (fill in the blank).Rather, we need to start imitating Jesus. We need to realize that God created every single person and it is not our job or our right to withhold the love and welcome and mercy and grace of Jesus that we have so accepted. Last time I checked, He’s coming back to judge and our job, until He does, is to call down the Kingdom of Heaven over the darkness.
I can’t do that if I’m too afraid of the darkness. I can’t do that if I’m too busy protecting myself and hoarding my Gospel that worked so well for me but doesn’t seem to carry enough power for you.
Just welcome people to your table. Don’t put caveats or asterisks on your love, just open your life to people. God is judge and He will deal with all of our messes, that’s not our task (hallelujah!). Imitate Jesus and deny no one your best: a seat at your table, your time, your consideration, your love, your family, our Jesus.
We love our Gospel. We love what we believe. But we need to look to the One who made every single person with as much love and intention as He made us and let Him define how we interact with people who are different than us.
I would much rather fling the doors wide and let Jesus sort it all out than lock them shut and hurt His heart.