There’s Jesus again, sitting at a well with a promiscuous Samaritan woman. He’s talking with her. And there He is having dinner with a short, little tax collector. Woah, that lady is pouring perfume on His feet! What’s the deal with that? It looks like He’s definitely a friend. He’s pretty comfortable!
Over there, in the corner, I see a group gathering around a table. They look like they are ticked-off about something. They’re mumbling under their breath and looking toward Jesus with scowls on their faces. I can hear snippets of their conversations.
“They don’t even go to church. What’s he doing hanging around those people?”
Jesus notices their conversations but doesn’t change anything. Instead He looks like they’ve punched him in the heart again. They just don’t get it. They still want to focus on religion and are missing the relationship news he is living.
Do you think when He had dinner at Matthew’s house (Matthew 9) that all the people who got together changed the way they talked, the things they joked about and their normal courses of life so they wouldn’t offend Jesus? I doubt it. Rough crowds aren’t known for towing the line.
I know that some people say Jesus didn’t miraculously create fermented wine at the wedding feast. They tell me He created grape juice and it’s silly to think otherwise because fermentation “takes time.” I guess it’s an easy way to credit Jesus with a miracle without allowing Him to take any part in people drinking wine. Apparently Jesus is powerful enough to make grape juice from water but He comes up a little short in his ability to affect fermentation. So close …
The mumbling masses mumble on. Jesus tells them that He came for people like these and that He’s going to hang out with them and share life with them. While the holy huddle sits in a corner complaining about how unholy He is, questioning His motives and grumbling about He and His disciples not following the rules, Jesus keeps loving people. He tells His complaining friends that they need a lesson in kindness (Mt 9:13) and that He’d rather have that than all their self-elevating sacrifices.
Jesus was altogether separate. He hung out with people altogether in life-transforming ways. His mindset was entirely different and separate from the secular and Hebrew mindset. He revealed the life and heart of God in the same Scriptures they had. It’s possible to study the Scriptures and miss the One. Do you know what I mean?
The grumblers are still off to the side. They meet together to discuss ways to reach out to others but then set boundaries that make honesty and comfort impossible. They create surreal experiences. They list random rules. They schedule spontaneity and chance right out of the picture. The people they attract, if any, are the same systems types that they are. They program programs that they will like.
How many times have I heard a well-meaning brother or sister say the key to reaching others for Christ is to have more worship services? More studies? More prayer times? How many times have we rushed in to serve some soup to the hungry and then rushed out before things got uncomfortable?”Uncomfortable” happens when life occurs. Schedules and programs with tightly-packed agendas help us stay in control and make sure nothing awkward happens. Smokers won’t smoke, swearers won’t swear and no one will tell an off-color joke if we make sure to eliminate time for joking. It will be perfect if they all just sit and listen and then go right to their cars and leave. We’ll feel good. They’ll wonder what the heck just happened.
I can see Jesus reclining at the table at Matthew’s house. Most houses were a couple rooms with dirt floors. The theme was multi-purpose functionality. Rolled mats for reclining. Finger bowls for dipping. Cheese, wine, vegetables and fruits, and eggs. The main course was most likely fish but may have been red meat if Matthew was pulling out all the stops. The smells of a boiling stew pot – salt, onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, mint, dill, and mustard fill the house. Some sweet honey or date syrup take the bitter edge off
. Conversation flows, laughs erupt and life happens.
Belong. Believe. Become. I love you, you love me, you love others. Rinse and repeat.
The mumblers espouse an entirely different approach; become and then belong and then believe. Actually, believing isn’t really all that important as long as one becomes (changes behavior) and then finds that he belongs (is accepted based on that change.) You can make the grade without believing anything different at all. Just do the right stuff and say the right things and you belong.
Jesus demonstrates love and extends belonging first. People react to his unconditional love by replacing their belief system with a grace-based paradigm and then desire to become like Him. Remember Zaccheus? Because Jesus loves and accepts me, I will determine to love and accept others. Because He forgives me I will forgive others.
Being separate is not about going through a cloudy behavioral checklist determining worth, value or status. It’s not about a random list of ever-changing cuss words and it’s not about making sure your iPOD is filled only with the hippest of Christian worship music and absolutely no U2 .(Bono swore on television, remember?) Being separate means renewing our minds with a system that allows for people to be welcomed, heard and treated with kindness. Being separate appears to me to be less positional than it is attitudinal.
I refuse to let your can of beer or the fact that you just said a naughty word put distance between us. I refuse to turn you away or discount or devalue you. I refuse to reduce the kingdom of heaven to matters of eating or drinking and the daily trivium of life (Rom. 14). I refuse to look down my nose and pass judgement on you. I refuse to join that table in the corner.
I choose to truly be separate.
Breathe Deep (The Breath of God) 1996
Lost Dogs from the album “Green Room Serenade, Part One”(Terry Taylor)
Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes
Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids
Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits
Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peace nicks
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists
Evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slum lords
Dead-beats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics
Housewives, neophytes, pro-choice, pro-life
Misogynists, monogamists, philanthropists, blacks and whites
Police, obese, lawyers, and government
Sex offenders, tax collectors, war vets, rejects
Atheists, Scientists, racists, sadists
Photographers, biographers, artists, pornographers
Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thespians
The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers
Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and juries
Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere!