I’ve had one of those days where the last thing you want is to get into a discussion or really an argument over something that you really don’t want to talk about. I am doing something I know that lots of people don’t understand. So I am use to answering questions but at times tire of either trying to defend what I am doing or make a distinction between doing church and living out mercy and grace.
I had gotten into a heated argument with one of the guardians of our teens. This is an unfortunate situation where the teen has really never lived with his mom because she is a drug addict. I know that the uncle in many ways is well intentioned in what he has done for his sister’s kids. Yet, as I look at what has taken place of the time I have known them I can’t see much improvement. I know that there is a fine line between showing compassion for someone and giving an impression that they are failing. I too have a tough time when someone puts me in this situation and I end up having to justify what I am doing or should have done.
I know that pastors at times can be their own worst enemy. It is easy for us, myself include, to truly believe that we have the hot line to heaven and that anyone else who questions or doesn’t understand what we are doing obviously has a problem. I definitely see the by product of not staying in touch with someone and discovering that the real issue is that we don’t know each other and either are afraid of expressing our true feelings or don’t like someone else’s practice or expression of the faith. I am learning that it isn’t my job or mission in life to change anyone. This is tough for me to accept and live out. Only God the Spirit is able to transform a heart and change a person’s mind towards someone else.
So as I am reaching back to a few fellow pastors to get permission to promote the ongoing mercy work we do and I get mixed signals. I have a few that are thrilled to have an opportunity to do something outside the box and see God work in some amazing ways. Then I get a few that seem to question the legitimacy of what I am doing. Which I deep down inside understand, but it still isn’t easy to swallow. Yeah, I preach every Sunday, we do church, do the normal pattern and we do all of these other ministries which I believe should be an integral part of the local church in impacting the neighborhood God has placed it.
I am learning the power of multiplying my gifts through training others to work with us. So I can’t obviously tutor or mentor 30-50 students. Much like I can’t paint a house all by myself in 2 hours. So I have had the privilege at times to stand back and watch God work through many hands where I get some of the credit or praise. Ultimately it is the Father who has raised up his people to do kingdom work that shows forth his truth, mercy and grace.
I know that there is a spiritual battle taking place in the neighborhood where I live. It isn’t any coincident that there have been many shootings in our larger neighborhood. It at times is easy to let circumstances to get you down and become too focused on the proverbial tree instead of seeing the larger forest. Much in the same sense you can allow one person to get you totally off track and miss the larger group that God has called you to love on, walk with and show grace minute by minute. I asked a couple of questions on Facebook the last couple of days dealing with why is it so hard to forgive and reconcile? Why is it the case that one person seems to be able to humble themselves and live out forgiveness whereas someone else is consumed with bitterness and the desire to always get revenge?
I don’t have any quick answers. I know that one of my favorite stories in the Bible is of Jesus going into the Pharisee’s home for dinner. He is reluctant to help Jesus clean his feet and is shocked when a prostitute comes over to love on Jesus. The judgment that day made by Jesus is that the woman loved because she had been forgiven much but the religious leader couldn't love much because he had never really acknowledged his sin. I now that one of the downsides to being a ‘white guy’ that is educated and part of a church that idolizes seminary and theological education, is that this doesn’t fit in my world, living in a diverse neighborhood . Few of the adults that I am around have finished grade school or Jr. High forget High School or college. This obviously doesn’t stop God from using these people in significant ways. So how do I walk the line between these very different expressions of following Christ? I can I relate back to my pagan friends who span the spectrum of rich – poor, highly educated to being street smart but at times I struggle with those who seem to have all the answers but don't want to partner with me in my community.
I marvel that Jesus was able to appeal to both the common man and the ruling class leaders. Jesus in many ways was very simple in his approach to how he used an outside lecture venue as his way of teaching the truth. I love his parable stories because they are simple and point out truth in a way that is so clear. Otherwise I struggle with the Paul’s way of always making everything so complicated. It’s not that I don’t like Paul, I do but I see how his language choices, sentence structure and hard nose approach to life didn’t mesh with many at all. Whereas Jesus walked and talked and went to people to show them that he was sent from the Father and would be soon the ultimate shepherd and perfect sacrifice to lay down his life, even though he questioned this at the end but was obedient to his Father.
My hope is not to be the answer man for everyone but a reflection of God’s amazing grace and truth that is more than capable of transforming anyone’s mess or disaster. Jesus help me even this moment as I type a reflection of what I hope is my heart. So quickly in summarizing I am not going to be able to dissuade those who don’t understand grace and mercy why I am doing my present work. Yet, to those who come with open hearts and minds I see God reveal his heart, which isn’t white, black, brown, red or yellow. The path I have been placed upon isn’t easy to follow, in fact it’s a very difficult one to follow. So Lord help me not to stop regardless of the obstacles, successes or failures. May your kingdom impact my world!