I’ve been trying to encourage a friend of mine to start investing intentionally in the lives of others. Over the last few years, I’ve walked with him through an intense season of humbling and new growth. He’s one of the most aggressive learners I know. He’s an intense, messy, ruthlessly honest person and I think he has a lot to offer other people on the journey with Jesus.
But when I try to encourage him to disciple others, he says something like, “yeah right. Look at me! I’m worse than most people…” To which I commonly reply, “I think that’s your best qualification!”
Okay, hang on. I’m about to get a little preachy… a bit “thou”-ish. Please excuse. ☺
I know precious few who so authentically pursue God’s love while being so honest about the mess that is their lives. In other words, here’s someone who gets grace. He just doesn’t know yet what a rare gem that makes him.
I know FAR more people who excel in righteousness and stink at love. When those people run off to “serve the Lord”, I get seriously worried. In my own journey, it’s become far less about conforming my behavior or cultivating more zeal… I did that for way too long. Instead, my journey has become far more about knowing my neediness and cultivating compassion for the neediness of others.
If you’re a Christian who has “gotten clean” and grown in righteousness, but hasn’t been recently humbled and deeply shaken by God’s love in the midst of your mess… PLEASE don’t run off to the mission field or church work, even if you’re really smart and talented and all the Christians beg you to. Let’s leave that work to those beautiful rotten sinners who need God. In the mean time, we should pray that God makes us one of them. (If you need practical suggestions in how to become more aware of your sorry state, try getting married and having kids.)
But if you’re one of those honest messy people that knows God’s love and thinks you have nothing to offer, then hold on to your hat, “cause it’s about to get real.” You’ll probably find you have more to offer than you ever dreamed. That’s the upside kingdom for ya. As Jesus says, “I have not come to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
PS- If your thinking of slapping me in stocks and informing me of the biblical mandate to pursue righteousness, I’ll save you the time. I’m perfectly familiar with the various views on sanctification, the sermon on the mount, Paul’s lists of spiritual ills, etc, etc. My point isn’t that we should be more fleshy, but that we should more readily acknowledge self-righteouness as the most insidiously fleshy thing we can do according to Jesus. It’s not a nasty little habit. It’s the deadliest of those deadly sins. And we should be a little quicker to encourage and empower those who struggle daily to live up to the “standard” and know it. They’re make the best teachers of grace and we’d all do well to sit at their feet.