afraid of a scandal

i love the church but i hate how safe it is.

we read accounts of Christ spending significant time with the people within the community that weren’t the shinning stars of integrity.  He rather walked among the thugs and lowlifes of his day as well as the wealthy,  the polished and religious upright.  unlike the selfless love of Christ, we often base our friendships on a system of exchanges.  i am friends with “johnny” because he offers me “this” or “that”.  it’s easy to befriend the people who have something to offer us.

that’s not a friendship built on love.  that is supply and demand.

the true test of how much we actually love people comes when we befriend those who have nothing to offer us.  when we genuinely befriend the homeless, the addict, the rapist, is when we are loving as Jesus.

Jesus socialized with the nobodies, vagabonds, those seen as worthless, prostitutes, rich con-artist, thieves, politicians, church leaders, blue collar workers and the very men who were oppressing Him and the land in which he lived.  He spent time with people of all walks of life who had a socio-economic standing that spanned the spectrum – from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor.  it amazes me that His love showed no reservations.

you can tell by the people Jesus loved, He was not afraid of a scandal.

one of the things that saddens me the most about our interpretation of church is how we keep everything so damn clean.  life isn’t that clean.  our hearts aren’t that clean.  Jesus wasn’t that clean.  i’m sure there were mornings he came in from a night out on the town with the “sinners” and his clothes stunk of booze, cheap perfume and smoke. does that mean he was out wasted with the drunks?  no.  but he was with them.  he wasn’t sitting behind a desk developing strategies on how to get them to come to church.

a great downfall in christian culture is fooling ourselves into thinking that the outcast will come to church if we can make it relevant or cool enough for them.  we pray for our media rich services to somehow divinely travel into the hearts of the ghetto and speak to the addict.  we proclaim from the pulpit a need to “save those in need of Jesus” and yet we go about our regular selfish lifestyle as soon as our feet feel the weight of our standing to sing the invitation hymn.

we, the church, wonders why we aren’t reaching more people and why our churches are shriveling up and dying in numbers but we don’t ask the question that really matters.  are we loving people like Jesus?

or are we simply asking them to come to church with us?

Jesus wasn’t afraid to shake things up.  He didn’t shake the religious world up simply because He wanted to be controversial.  He shook things up because His love took him to the heart of where it was needed.  Love took Him to the desperate, the wealthy money hoarder, the rich thieving tax-collector, the unclean prostitute, the school drop out fisherman.  Love took Jesus to the places we don’t like to go.

His friend choices sparked rumors.  the places He chose to eat pissed people off.

His unclean lifestyle made those living a clean lifestyle hate him.

every time Jesus walked into the temple His feet tracked in the dirtiness from the places he had been.

the truth of the matter is that we would rather play it safe and not have to answer the hard questions rather than love the marginalized in their territory and suffer the brunt of the talk that ensues.

church in america looks more like a political party convention that meets on sunday mornings than a place of refuge, hope, healing, restoration and love.

why is this the case?

i believe it’s because we like the idea of loving like Jesus more than actually actively participating in the transforming Love of Jesus by meeting people where they are at.

can this be changed?  of course.

how?  by loving people with all of our hearts, strength, mind, and soul with the Love of the cross.

what now?  that’s up to you… and me.

Today, may you pray for the courage to live the Love of Jesus.

may your heart burst with Grace for everyone you encounter.

may Love be all you do.

i want to change the world, but i’m not daft enough to pretend it will change by me talking about it with my religious friends.  if i want to change the world, i have to participate in the transformation.

Grace and Peace

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