Growing in Christ
God is not your employer.
I used to think that the “Good News” was a job offer. I would listen to preachers from various platforms and hear the call to worship as a careers development seminar. Hearing, “If you’ll just give your life to Christ (as a pledge of allegiance to the Trinity Flag, a vow of servitude) then….. you won’t be deserving of judgement and humiliation and torment, which you actually deserve and need to repent for so be sure to bow low and tremble hard when you approach God (the fearsome one who hates you, but if you apologize correctly he’ll let you serve him until you finally keel over and die of exhaustion).”
“Good news” seemed to be a misnomer. I thought, on my best day God might employee me for scraps off the table. Jesus responded to a woman asking for help for her demon afflicted child for help by saying it was wrong to give the children’s bread to the dogs. And she came back at him saying it was right because the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table. She defended that she was not a robber of the children. Why didn’t he say coming to convince her she wasn’t a dog? (Matthew 15:26-28)
Does God correct every mind into believing in self-worth, or does he allow some to have low self-esteem while pushing them to fight for themselves? Is there anything he could have said to her to convince her, after years of belittling in her culture, that she was not a dog, but in fact a child of God deserving of inheritance in a shared portion with her brothers? Does God have the right test us? Yes. Did she have the right to speak to him that way? Yes. Pray audaciously.
God will always leads us into a understanding of our worth. But, it doesn’t, always, look like it from the outside. But, he operates uniquely with each of us. Jesus’s mission was an individual-to-individual pursuit of the individual into love for the individual that builds up the mind and strength of the individual. He was not discussing national policy. He never gave instruction to a judge as to how to enforce God’s law given to Moses more justly. His purpose was going into the gutters and lifting up the faces of the oppressed one-by-one and saying, “You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) (Mary Magdelene)
He spoke to crowds by thousands, but had dinner in the homes of pimps and law-abiding thieves called “tax-collectors.” (Matthew 9:11-13) He went to the hated. He went to the ones blamed for everything bad in the world and said, “In heaven I have built you a house.” (John 14:2) And, love broke in. These were men and women afflicted by cultural norms to oppress them by their own people because they were forbidden to repent: they were rejected by the temple guard of wisemen and priests. So, God went down and got them himself. Does he like their actions? No. He’s interested in setting them free of their lives, their work, and their misguided choices. They needed to hear from their God that they were wanted, even still, and redeemable.
These were men and women accustomed to being treated horribly by the elite, the knowledgable, the able, the “righteous” and yet, Jesus was a man preaching righteousness for days and they wanted more of him. His words brought life and freedom. They saw something in him. Jesus was different. I know men and women that are tired of hypocrisy and certainly the righteous elite of the day was hypocritical. The people I know don’t let a hypocrite speak for long. They can detect hypocrisy a mile away, and they stay away from it. But, Jesus was welcomed by the street-wise people. And he was telling them to repent and they saw something lovely. I believe it was truth. I believe they saw someone who understood being kind in an upright way that didn’t result in more pain for the person being asked to live uprightly. I believe they heard a voice speak the fruit of hope and they were strengthened. I am amazed by Jesus. I wish I could have heard his voice, back then.
And “I can’t” is what I often say to God. Does he judge me for all that I can’t? I don’t think so. I think he’s the one telling me that I can’t to get me to see his goodness; he is strong and I am not. He is God and I am not. He is able and I am not. So, that I will accept that my humanity limits me. Not to lead to me to hate myself or judge myself forever unwantable. But, to lead me into his grace, believe him that he’s got my life. Because he’s going to keep talking, if I’ll listen, that he wants me and he’s pursing me to lead me into rest. And to believe him that he came to bring life. And, to hope that he’s not trapping me into a life of servitude. Many a religious man have railed at me, vehemently passionate that if I don’t serve and serve often the church on Sundays and at the whatever meeting I’m required at and figure out what the list of Jesus is that I must adhere to then I will be spit out of God’s mouth, unwanted. I would like that religious man to search his heart to ask the question, “Have you ever trusted Jesus? Or are you working because you think you’re a servant?”
Jesus said to the disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, but I call you friends.” (John 15:15)
Salvation changes everything. Not only, are we not slaves to sin, not only are we not dogs of less worth than the bread on the table for the children, not only are not servants with heavy burdens, not only are we children of God, we are the Bride of Christ. Misogynist men and women believe a wife has no value, yet God came down and rescued us from the burden of servitude and bestowed on us a woman’s honor: wifehood of the Son of God. The pride cannot withstand this dishonor, but it’s not suppose to, the design is to force the pride to die. And, the result is life as it was meant to be lived: in a state of receiving. You are a trophy wife. You are the adornment on the arm of the Son of God. You are taken of and provided for. You don’t work. Your husband works. You are cherished. You are wanted.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” – Jesus using scripture to announce himself as Messiah in the synagogue (Luke 4:17-21)
Jesus said to the Pharisees who asked him why we would share a meal with sinners, “‘But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:11-13 Jesus was quoting from scripture Hosea 6:6)
Perhaps today’s church should ask what Jesus he means by “liberty.”
What will I become when I know Jesus loves me, too?