Some notes I wrote during church this week:
The crowd surrounding Jesus on the road to Jerusalem (and his crucifixion) acted as a barrier so that He could not actually see those who may need Him, such as the blind man on the roadside.
This reminds me of how the church sometimes gets in the way of those who really need Him. It’s my constant question: How can we be open to reach ANY who need the Word, and at the same time discuss the precepts of God which do not allow for sin.
And then a few minutes later, Pastor put this up on his slideshow:
Does my own passion to be with Jesus unintentionally crowd out those who need Him?
This is a re-curring theme in my mind, heart, and conversations. I have grown to love God and all of the words contained in the Bible, and it makes me want to discuss His Word with people who are learning too, or who have learned and can provide insight.
I crave being at church and around people like me. Spiritually.
My conundrum – and I’m not the only one who thinks like this – is that the more I hang out with ‘people like me’ the more I am not hanging around with ‘people like I was‘.
When I’m around ‘people like me’ I often feel like an outsider. I have questions. I question the Bible, God, and many aspects of the Word (particularly Paul…. more on that another time).
And I have a different background than most people I encounter in/around church. That is, who I was.
Who I was is exactly who ends up being outside the church, and who feels like they don’t belong. The type of people who know the idea of God, and often know many stories about Jesus, and yet feel like the church is a stronghold. Not a stronghold of safety, but one of rejection, unacceptance, arrogance, and other negative feelings.
It’s the unacceptance that I personally felt the most. Church was filled with people who pretended that they were holy, yet were hiding a multitude of sins. Church was filled with people who judged, even though I knew the Bible said “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.
Church was something to hide behind and use to point fingers at others in order to omit them from the promises that Jesus made for redemption and forgiveness. To omit them from society. To omit them from human rights.
Thankfully that is only human action, and not the way God actually is. He gave us volumes of text from a variety of people (men AND women) to let us know how much He loves each and every one of us no matter what we’ve done, no matter what our gender or race, no matter what our daily choices continue to be.
Jesus exhibited that love in person.
He gave us an example to live by, and yet human nature is to be legalistic, just as the Pharisees who wanted to condemn Him.
Jesus may have been surrounded by believers, as he is in the body of the church, but it is those who sit by the roadside who need Him more. It is the blind, the sick, the addicted, the sinful, the poor, who need Him and yet the body of the church often gets in the way.
Thankfully, Jesus is always available to anyone who needs healing of any type:
He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by.” He yelled, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?” He said, “Master, I want to see again.” Jesus said, “Go ahead—see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.
Luke 18: 35-43
That man could have been blind, deaf, sick, addicted, poor, or afflicted with anything, and because he had faith he was healed. That story is the story of US, of ME, of anyone IN- or OUT-side the church, and yet the church is often like those who told the man to shut up.
God tells us what is sinful and what is righteous. He is very specific in the Old Testament, and with Jesus, He simplified it all into: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.
That was repeated in Matthew, Mark, Luke… and Deuteronomy! That was even in the Old Testament! It is THE most important law, and the answer to all things.
Can you imagine a world that exists and operates according to that law? I can, and it is completely different. Nobody feels rejected – not for their beliefs nor their lifestyle. Nobody feels unaccepted – not for their race nor gender. Nobody feels unloved. Nobody hates themselves for their sin. And actually, nobody sins…
By following that law, it is possible to have no sin. But humans give in to temptation. They listen to what the evil one suggests in the world. They listen to themselves and their own ‘wisdom’ instead of God’s. Humans choose from a place of free will, which God gave them so that they could choose whether to be with Him or not… He gave us this instead of forcing us to be with Him by omitting free will.
He gave us the greatest gifts possible, and humans use that against Him.
Yet, the moment we turn to Him, profess the faith of the blind man on the roadside by asking Him to be in our lives, He is ours completely.
There is no love greater…