My fear is often we think Jesus looks just like us, like our kind of people. My fear is we are so caught up in our taste in friends, our preferences in religious practices, our wealth, our standards, our politics, our pain and suffering that we don't even notice anything but the reflection in the mirror. In essence, Jesus could walk right by and we would look the other way.
Cliques kill churches.
Any youth minister will tell you how discouraging it is when teens call or text to find out who is coming to an event before they make the decision to attend. It is more discouraging when those calls or texts are encouraged by their parents. Relationships save churches. Cliques are meant for exclusivity and they, my friend, are the death of churches. Ministers hate cliques, and because of that we are usually and thankfully left out of them.
Jesus might not look like us at all.
In Mark 2, Jesus is hanging out and eating with a scandalous crowd. This crowd made up of the outcast of society, the ancient IRS, and the "sinners" were all there because they followed Jesus. The religious people, the pious, looked down on the dinner friends. (Note: The religious people didn't have the nerve to ask Jesus about his dinner companions. No, they asked the disciples in true snobbish form thinking it best not to get too close to those outcasts lest they look a part of the group.) My guess, the Pharisees knew exactly the response that was coming from Christ because they, God's chosen, should know better than to doubt God's love.
Jesus responds, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." What fascinates me here is, Jesus knew everyone in that room was a sinner. He came for everyone there but was sitting with those who would accept Him and with those who were open to the call.
I am an introvert. I believe that is why I like to write. It is easy. I write my feelings, and I never have to face people. To be truthful, people scare me. People disappoint. It is a daily struggle for me to put faith in people. I have few close friends. I choose my close friends very carefully. I struggle with being a "good" minister's wife because I must, I absolutely MUST, reach out to others and minister to them. I MUST get out of my comfort zone and show love to the hurting. I MUST show love to people who will definitely exclude me, or absolutely refuse to let me into their clique. I MUST reach out and keep trying and honestly it has little to do with my husband's job. I must reach out because I am called to love. I am called to eat with the sinner. I am called to have more than one close friend. I am called to be family to a world crying out for a real, undying, unconditional love. I am called to be Jesus to the world, and I am not the only one called.
Our job as the church is to wave goodbye to exclusivity.
What I want to see is a church that knows its place in the world. Our job is not to serve ourselves. Our job is not to make sure our groups are comfortable and glorified. Our job is not to make sure we don't offend anyone. Our job is not to be comfortable at all. Our job is to reveal Jesus to the world and make certain that the picture we paint of HIM actually resembles HIM.
I think John Cusack said it best in a recent article for Vanity Fair when asked about his hero. He said, "Let's go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the Right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful."I don't know anything about John Cusack's politics or religion, nor do I really care. He may have said a thousand stupid things in the past, but this time he said something brilliant.
This is Jesus the Christ, God in man, The Savior we no longer recognize because He might not look anything like us. If we want to recognize Jesus when he walks by, then it is high time we start looking just like HIM.
It is time to get out of our comfortable pews with our comfortable friends and reach out to those who are truly in need. It is time to stop being territorial about our relationships and let love and relationships grow beyond our comfort zone. It is time to stop hiding behind a mask of earthly status and self-proclaimed importance. It is time to stop looking down on those that might actually need your friendship. It is time to make friends with someone you never thought you could. It is time to reach out and show love to the despised, the outcast of society, the lonely. It is time to show love because you ARE called to show love. It is time to be Jesus instead of you.
I'm on board for the transformation. Are you?