Reading through the scriptures today and preparing for the Christmas Eve service has me spinning on an idea that is a familiar stream woven throughout scripture, the idea of coming as you are. The gravity of the Jesus’ ministry, the incarnation of God coming to people is nothing short of breath taking. It’s one of those themes that we can quickly gloss over, as we run to the more exhilarating passages of scripture. It’s one of those themes that should shape our ministries and our communities as we live life.
The commands of Scripture, as we should read it, are almost always plural. Set to be done by God’s people. Jesus’ ministry in a sense should always be considered in a communal state. Jesus, the lamb of God, came down to the earth so that he would reconcile His people to Himself. The miracles that he performed brought great glory to His Father, opening the eyes and the ears of some of the people around Him. The interesting part of this is that the people did not do anything to warrant forgiveness nor did they do anything to clean themselves up. Jesus called them “as they were.” If we take this theme and apply it to our communities, I think that what we will find is that we require people to act a certain way for us to welcome them in. We might mask our expectations with calls to the alter or charitable giving, but ultimately within the Church we expect that people will act a certain way. This way is vastly different among churches, some churches require that you keep your hands down while worshiping and yet others look down on outward worship. Regardless of the expectation, we as a church frown on and ultimately miss opportunities to engage one another because of our presupposed expectations. The most evil and dangerous part of these expectations is that they evolve within a community. As communities grow and become bonded, they develop their own expectations. When the expectations of the community are not met within the community, there is hostility and often shunning, until the expectations are met. This is not a hard and fast rule, just a simple observation.
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine recently and I made a statement similar to the one that I just wrote, and it made him angry. Angry at me and he was rightfully so. I joined in on the communal expectation, ultimately ostracizing my own because they failed to meet the standard that I had set for them. Of course, realizing my error, I apologized and repented for failing to see the error in my ways. The conversation didn’t end there. We talked and I pondered about what the implementations of my blindness has for the communities that I’m involved in. How had my worship slipped back into self righteousness? The question is answered in the beginning of this writing, it’s an indicative/imperative assessment.
I failed, and we fail because we do not allow people to come to us as they are. We suppose that they will act a certain way, react a certain way or at least pretend to act a certain way. This creates communities that are not built on trust, but rather behavior. It’s simply going back to behavior modification on a communal level. It’s an issue that stems from original sin, we want to be God, and in doing so we throw burdens on people that aren’t theirs to carry. We want the clean, and yet we are called into the dirty.
My prayer is that our hearts will be broken for the broken. As broken people we will realize our faults and repent of our sinful ways. That we will yearn to be in the front lines of ministry, open about our brokenness and always on guard for the sin that is crouching at the door. That we will be people that look more like Jesus and less like the religious leaders. That God will move people into our paths, to challenge the norm and to force us to see the log that is in our own eye. Let us not be a people that misses the point, that gathers around expectation and in doing so, fails to point people to the one that never failed. His name is Jesus.