Friday, August 20, 2010

Being Relatable

I have made many mistakes as a young Christian.  I've been zealous for Christ without any of the wisdom that comes from years of walking with the Spirit.  I've tried to tell people that they needed to belong to my church in order to be saved (a mistake I will never make again, although I still retain that some churches are not showing people the right way according to what I see in the Bible).  I've given advice to people without having walked in their shoes (or tried to walk in their shoes).  I've made snap judgements about people's faith based on outward appearances.  The list goes on.

As I've gotten older, I've gotten wise enough to know that I am not wise, and I've settled into a comfortable complacency.  I revel in being relatable; after all, I was invited to church randomly on the street four times (to sister branches of the same church as it turned out), but the only time I actually came was when they didn't mention "church" in the first encounter.  I saw that person as a friend and wanted to go to church with her, not as a recruiter that was trying to get me to join her sect.

After I got baptized, I was so excited by what I was learning, what God was doing in my life, I couldn't believe everyone around me wasn't interested in the same thing.  I got quite a few cold shocks from people I was sure would be open to the message (and a few surprises from people I was sure never would be).  In the end I've grown comfortable.  I know that God saves, that he opens people's hearts, that he is moved by my prayers, and that no amount of persuading on my part is going to convince people as to what they need.  I live out this mantra in my daily life as I talk about muslim values with my muslim friends, latest trends with my worldly friends, motherhood with my mom friends:

1 Corinthians 9:

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

I somehow think that simply by being relatable people are going to see that being a Christian is attainable, that you can be an upright person and still be "cool."  I don't think that idea is completely off-base, but if I examine closely, I've won no one for Christ that way.  Come, let us walk on this road together and talk about light subjects, and here at the parting of the roads I will continue on to heaven where I will meet my Lord, and you --

The truth is, there is no one way to win people to God, just as there is no one type of faith.  I know a young woman who was living in the spiritual gutters of NY, who became a Christian just because some newly-converted (unwise) zealot said she had better change her ways or she would go to hell.  I also know others who became a Christian just by seeing the gentleness and faith of their friends.  

I Corinthians 1:

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
 18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written: 

   "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
      the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

 26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."[d]

To be honest (to myself, as well as to you), I was a fool when I was called.  Any wisdom, any relatability, and coolness, any gentleness of tongue and spirit, any beauty ... I got with the help of the Spirit.  How can I then think that I can win people for Christ by displaying these virtues and clamming up on their source?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

People I Admire in the Bible

Four people instantly come to mind when I think about people I admire in the Bible.

The faith of the Canaanite Woman:

Matthew 15:21-28 (New International Version)

 21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
 24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
 25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
 26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
 27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
 28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Not only was she not concerned with her own pride, her own status (turning away in anger because of Jesus' words), but she understood that Jesus was so powerful it only took crumbs to heal her daughter.  She had great faith indeed.

The Man Born Blind:

John 9:1-34 (New International Version)

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
 1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
 6Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. 7"Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
 8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" 9Some claimed that he was.
      Others said, "No, he only looks like him."
      But he himself insisted, "I am the man."

 10"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded.
 11He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
 12"Where is this man?" they asked him.
      "I don't know," he said.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath.15Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." 16Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath."
      But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.

 17Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened."
      The man replied, "He is a prophet."

 18The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. 19"Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?"
 20"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. 21But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ[a] would be put out of the synagogue.23That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
 24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God,[b]" they said. "We know this man is a sinner."
 25He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"
 26Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"
 27He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
 28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from."
 30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."
 34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

Spiritual Blindness
 35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
 36"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."
 37Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."
 38Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.
 39Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
 40Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"
 41Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

My favorite verses are 24-33.  He couldn't have had much status in the temple if he was forced to beg every day.  As a result he simply didn't care what the leaders of Israel thought - he had been healed by Jesus!  We forget that we actually have as little status as he did (and I find myself trying to hold on to that little bit instead of being proud of what Jesus did for me).

Jesus actually went back to find him and make sure he knew who he was - I don't remember him doing that for anyone else.

The Centurion:

Luke 7:1-10
The Faith of the Centurion
 1When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, 5because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." 6So Jesus went with them.
      He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 
7That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 9When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." 10Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

This man actually amazed Jesus with his faith.  Wow!  The Centurion was used to his word meaning something, as orders were carried out as soon as he spoke them.  He believed that Jesus had this same authority and didn't even need to have him present in order for his servant to be healed.  He understood Jesus' authority, even over life and death, and he had not even grown up with the prophets to feed that faith.  He simply knew who Jesus was.


I didn't copy all of Acts 7 for space, but copied my favorite part.  The part that gives me a thrill every time I read it for the conviction he had that caused him not to mince words:

Acts 7
51"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
The Stoning of Stephen
 54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
 59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Jesus actually stood up!  You know when you cheer the players on and can't resist getting to your feet in your passion.  Jesus stood up for him.

I hope he stands up for me one day as great faith is really the only thing that counts.

Luke 18:8 (New International Version)

8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"