A New Commandment. (Part 1)

Where do we get off thinking we have it all together? That’s the statement we make by our actions all the time, right? I mean, if you really think about it, we treat others as though we are so much better than them. It’s as though we have made this audacious claim that we are the one deemed worthy to dish out the judgment that will bring the “wrongdoers” to their knees. We as Christians talk about  how Jesus is the only way to Heaven, that everyone has to believe in Him, and more importantly, in all of his words, to be “saved”.

 

Christians today are so caught up in “winning souls for Jesus”, or whatever ridiculous phrase you’d like to say, that we have all forgotten the point of a lot of Jesus’ words. You know, Jesus most often addressed people who thought they already had it all together, even though He spent the majority of time with people who DIDN’T have it all together. Though I’m sure Jesus said a lot of things to a lot of people that we don’t know because it wasn’t in the Bible, the writers of the Gospels seemed to think the things that were most important were the conversations Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees, with a rich man who had it all and yet longed for more, with a whore at a well, etc… Why are we only eavesdropping on these conversations? What about the conversations where he’s telling people “You got it right. Everyone, see this guy right here, you should learn from this guy. When I’m gone, you should follow this guy’s words and teaching, because He gets me. He understands the Kingdom. He understands my Father’s heart. He loves me and knows me, and I know Him. And I can vouch for this guy.”

I’m sure Jesus said some variation of this to SOMEONE, right? Surely he encouraged and uplifted SOMEONE. But he sort of did. First, He lifts John up by calling him the one whom He loved. Peter is an Apostle who never really got it. He was a failure by all of our standards. If his story had ended after denying Jesus, we would all consider Peter among the likes of Judas. In fact, the story kinda lots him in with Judas indirectly. The Gospels depict Peter as a coward throughout the story. From walking on water, to the infamous denial. But what happened after Jesus’ ascension? Peter became the one whom God used to expand His church on earth! Peter became the vessel of the Holy Spirit to lead God’s people in building the foundation of what we know today. God used all the Apostles, but He arguably used Peter more. Peter: the screw up. Peter: the one with little faith. Peter: the coward. But God used Peter to carry out the revolution Jesus came to start. What does that say about you and me? What does that say about how God must view us?

Everything changes when we begin to wrap our minds around the reality that Jesus came to die for the worst of us. Not just the worst people, but the worst versions of ourselves! When I was at my worst, making terrible decisions, acting irresponsibly and selfishly, treating people terribly, and making myself and everyone around me miserable, Jesus died for me. Jesus died for THAT guy.

Think about the darkest place of your life, and Jesus was there. He chose to meet us there. He took on the darkest parts of all of us, carried them to the darkest place, left it all there, and arose with the keys to that place. When I consider that truth, imagining myself back a few years ago in my lowest place, that Jesus loved me THEN, that revolutionizes the way I look at others. How can I ever judge someones condition or circumstance ever again? Jesus’ love for me far surpasses all the things I’ve ever done, or will do. He took on a world of darkness and sin and overcame it so that we have a way out! How is this not more devastating to us!? How is THIS not at the center of every sermon, every song, every dream, every conversation, every morning and evening.

If we begin to fully accept this truth, the fruit of the Gospel will be visible in all areas of our life. We still screw up. We still have lapses of judgement, selfishness, pride, etc. We are human, and we will battle ourselves to some extent until our time here is done. But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to experience the Kingdom of God in part now. We have something that is unthinkable, unimaginable, and unprecedented. we exist in the middle of a story in which we already know the end, and have access to the victory of that end. Through Jesus, we have obtained freedom from our current predicament that is the human condition of depravity, and instead live a life that has the benefits of victory over our depravity. It’s as though it never happened. The things we’ve done, are doing, and will do. Though it isn’t a one-sided deal. God isn’t necessarily unlocking our chains. He’s just handing us the keys. We have to want free. Sometimes we think we want free, but in all honesty we would rather accept our circumstances and continue living in bondage because it’s what’s familiar. We accept the things that happen to us and say things like “this always happens to me”, or “I just have the worst luck”, or a much more serious and dangerous phrase: “This is just WHO I AM”.

I’m just that person. I’m the alcoholic. I’m the slut. I’m the smart ass. I’m the failure. I’m the loser. I’m the geek. I’m the tough guy. I’m the delinquent. I’m the law breaker. I’m the man-whore.  I’m the cancer patient. I’m the diabetic. I am sick. I am broken. I am lost.

Any of those sound familiar? How often do we just accept our circumstances and then identify with them? We define who we are by our circumstances. What happens when we do this? We begin defining OTHERS by their circumstances. He’s homeless. He’s an alcoholic. He’s a beggar. She’s an addict…..And then we respond accordingly.

What would happen if we chose to see people the way Jesus sees us? What if we’ve had it all wrong? Maybe Jesus never intended for us to be the church we have become. Maybe His bride has lost her way, and now she has to find her way home.

 

Where do we start?

…Love.

(To be continued)

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