Guys, this is really different than my typical subject material and I’m not really even sure what to write. It’s heart-feelings and half-worded ideas that make this familiar keyboard feel clumsy and foreign. But sometimes being unsure of how to express certain thoughts means that’s precisely the thing that needs to be said. Maybe being in that vulnerable place is actually a place of strength.
I started trying to read through the Bible back in 2012. Just this morning I turned the last page of John and tomorrow (or whenever I can …) will start Acts. It’s been slow going but good and, surprisingly (not surprisingly), even my tortoise-speed reading has landed me in just the right places in just the right times.
In the last few months as I’ve been reading through the Gospels I have been overtaken by the words of Jesus. I just can’t get over how time and time again he turned the religious leaders of the day on their heads with the things he told them. The most primary thought in my head as I read Jesus’s groundbreaking words and their over-the-top offended reactions is this: the people who thought they had it all figured out were the ones Jesus continually threw for a loop. The ones who thought they had this God thing all figured out were repeatedly condemned for their ignorance and hypocrisy. It’s so interesting. And so very convicting.
My prayer as I’ve read through the Gospels is that the Lord would show me the places in my life where I think I have it all figured out – where I am certain no one can possibly think, speak, or act as rightly as I do – and allow me to reevaluate and hopefully eliminate those preconceptions. I think it would open up my life to exactly what Jesus taught as he walked the dusty ancient roads: more love, less judgement; more understanding, less rigidity; more Jesus, less me.
What would it look like if an entire generation of Christ-followers tossed out the mental checklists of what we had to do to be more like Jesus and embraced the things he did. What if?
When the woman was caught in adultery the pharisees wanted to stone her. Instead of condemn Jesus exposed the fact that we are all sinners.
When the pharisees wagged their fingers at Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath he exposed that they loved the law more than they loved an actual person and loved the idea of keeping the law more than they loved the idea of giving a man his life back.
When the pharisees complained that the disciples did not wash their hands before entering the temple Jesus called them hypocrites, because it is way less about outer cleanliness and way more about pure hearts.
Where are our favorite areas to pick others apart as modern day pharisees and what would that actually reveal about our hearts?
The older I get and the more I learn about my faith the more I feel like it all just comes down to Jesus. The rules and regulations that many view as the crux of the Christian faith might actually be its Achilles heel.
The real crux of the Christian faith is a God-man who kept company with the down-and-out, preached world-changing truths, healed many and ultimately, died to heal us all. The real crux is a cross and the love that sent him there, kept him there, and gave him – and us – life again.
I’ve been burned by people who thought enforcing rules was what Jesus was all about. I’m going to guess that you have too. I’m also sure I’ve hurt others in the church by loving rules and behaviors more than caring about hearts. I’m going to assume you fall into that category with me as well.
The truth is we are all imperfect people. Rules are easier than grace because then we can have good and bad, black and white. But grace brings gray and we aren’t as comfortable wrestling with gray as we are enforcing hard lines.
The church represents Jesus and sometimes we do a lousy job. Sometimes we become like the pharisees and love the law more than we love people. But what if our prayer became a plea for Jesus to show us where our ways of thinking needed to be turned upside down? Who could be freed, healed, saved, befriended, welcomed, redeemed, encouraged – who could belong – if we embraced living and loving like Jesus and rejecting the notion that we had it all figured out? What might happen then?
Jesus, show us …