This address is to you. I love you. Jesus loves you so much He died for you (and me).
But have we become like spoiled children, who own all things and yet take them for granted? Have we forgotten that our purchase was made by Someone else’s self-sacrificing blood, and His unwavering forgiveness, and not our own intelligence or wisdom? This is the pinnacle of Grace, that Christ died for us WHILE WE WERE HIS ENEMIES! And it wasn’t our goodness that saved us, it was His…. His wisdom, His kindness, His love and wonder! Why do we so easily suppose that we get to take credit for all that?
Church, He, who owns the universe, who created it for His good pleasure and freely gives us all things in Him… have we forgotten that all of these things are His? Have we neglected to notice them? Have we become so preoccupied and busy that we neglect to see with eternal-vision all the wonder that surrounds us and is designed to reflect His glory… bark on trees, patterns in clouds, twinkling stars, tiny mushrooms, dirt-smudged faces, the Imago Dei… the Image of God stamped on every single human being on this planet. Not just the Image filling pews, the Image filling street corners and bars, the Image filling public bathrooms and grocery stores. The exhausted mother, pushing strollers up hills. The weary traveler, sitting on his backpack, asking for your spare change. The teenager with the sad, shifting eyes. The skinny, sunken one, nodding-off on heroin on the street corner, right under the short mini skirt, looking to make a few bucks selling the most precious thing she owns: herself. The porn-addict. The business man. The soccer mom. Have we lost sight of who they are? Of Whose they are?
Are we too preoccupied with noticing what’s wrong with everyone else’s lives to notice them? Even with our own lives? Did you know that self-loathing is just a masked form of pride? It’s still all focus on self. And when we spend too much time looking at ourselves, whether we think we’re all that great or all that terrible, we can’t look around and see the wonder and worth in anyone else.
Have we forgotten that Christ came to save the lost, not persecute them? Yet, we think that only those that are worthy can be saved. What does that say about the way we view ourselves? We’re not really worthy either, are we, Church?
And how will the world know that Jesus is so precious if we don’t seem any more loving than they are. I have to say that I am pretty disheartened when I see how much better those outside the church are at building community, preserving the planet and treating others (regardless of their “sins”) with dignity, honor and compassion. It breaks my heart… not for those of us that already know Jesus, because if we love Christ, we’re free and forgiven regardless of how screwed up we still are. It breaks my heart for those outside the Church, because they don’t know what they’re missing out on. It is far too easy for them to find some misguided “christian poster-child” to mock Almighty God with.
Why are we known for being condemning when we’ve received forgiveness? It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like the little kid, who won’t share the game they received as a gift. They can’t even enjoy it without someone else to play with, yet they just don’t want to share.
If those outside the Church think they’re missing out on being “one of us”, who mostly just look like a bunch of spoiled, self-righteous, judgmental brats, who don’t get to sleep in on Sundays, well, who wants to join that club?
If they only knew about Jesus! If they only knew how magnificent HE is and how this world doesn’t matter at all compared to His surpassing worth! If they only knew that He makes wonder out of dirt and nothingness… that He really does love UNCONDITIONALLY! If they only knew about the King’s table and His splendor and His majesty! If only I could really wrap my own brain around all of it! What if instead of looking at everyone else critically, or looking at the world complacently, what if we saw Jesus everywhere we looked? What if we looked at other people, or in the mirror and thought “Image Bearer”? What if we looked at food on our plates and thought “Gift!”? What if we saw the earth and thought “This belongs to Him” (and then stopped treating it like that didn’t matter at all). What if we looked at the worlds’ pain and thought “Future Redemption”? And what if we looked up and never stopped looking down?
All I’ve ever wanted to do with my life was to love Jesus contagiously! Why? Because I know He’s the most incredible thing that has ever been, far greater than anything on this earth. I know what it was like before I knew Jesus… excruciating pain… and what it’s like in Christ… uncontainable joy! And I want Jesus for everyone! My life mission is to take as many folks as I can with me, when I go see Him. But sometimes my heart crumbles in anguish, when I think about the fact that all folks see when they think of Christians are folks that will despise them because of their struggles with sexual-orientation, or of snooty looks on classy-dressed people walking by the raggamuffins to get to church.
But what if we all knew we were raggamuffins? Jesus doesn’t want the spiritually superior. It’s the “poor in spirit” (spiritually-humble) that inherit the Kingdom!
In our turning the Kingdom of heaven into a social club for people who can mask their miseries better than others, we’ve failed to tell the world how worthy Jesus is, which is about the only thing we really must spend our lives doing. But not just with words. Words can be so staunch and incomplete. We must show people that Jesus LOVES them! Jesus LOVES us! Jesus IS LOVE and is all wonder imaginable. It they reject Jesus, they lose everything! How can we let this be? How can we not care? How can we make it about what they do and not who they are? How can we show them that He is better than every earthly treasure there is? How can we show them His radiance? And how can we do better at building this local and global community, preserving this precious earth that doesn’t actually belong to us anyways, and how can we live lives where judgment is replaced by compassion and unconditional, Christlike love? How can we be the Church? How can we reflect Jesus so that others can catch a glimpse of what He looks like?
Reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor in Matthew 18 where a man was forgiven his huge, astronomical debt but then refused to forgive a fellow man a tiny debt, “… ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you? Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.” – This is what Jesus had to say about someone who had ALREADY been forgiven their debt. So I think this warning applies to everyone..not just “Christians” or “non-Christians”…our free will is never taken from us, each day we must pick up our Cross and follow Him. The Grace of Christ is received through continual willful repentance and relationship with Him. At my high school, when I was still a Protestant there was a sign that read in a classroom “If someone were to put you on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” This sign really made me think because the answer was “no!”…all I had was a rational, mental belief..but as the Bible says even the “demon’s believe.” This is one reason why the Orthodox doctrine of salvation resonates with me because it maintains that you have to follow Christ and keep following him…not just say a “simple prayer.” Many people of all Christian backgrounds, including Orthodox, are not actually following Christ these days. This is why I love reading about the Lives of Saints throughout the ages…even in these Last Days when “love has grown cold” we can be inspired by the heroic Christians before us. Right now, I am reading about Father Seraphim Rose who started a monastery in the “hippy days” just outside of San Francisco..his story is incredible and I really recommend it. Love you.