I wonder what would have happened if, as a pastor, I had stood up in front of the church one Sunday and said, “I don’t want to be here. I’m tired of playing games. Pretending I’m all happy and that I’ve got Jesus in my back pocket. I don’t care about a single person here this morning. Not today. Not most days. I’d rather be in bed because I’m tired, my mind is completely drained of any helpful thoughts, and most of this sermon is cobbled together from five other crappy sermons I was too ashamed to preach in the past. Not today. …How about you?”
What if we could openly tell people our marriages are falling apart and that we’re selfish and hate admitting we’re wrong, and not worry about how they’d react?
What would it be like if we could, without a second thought, slump down into the back pew and start weeping into our hands knowing we’d only attract fellow weepers comforting us? If we humbly laughed at our nice Sunday clothes because they were so far removed from how we really felt inside? Would the whole place erupt in a chain reaction of laughter and tears as we realized how superficial and silly we are being?
Would we finally get honest?
I want to go to a church where a doctor and a prostitute can bump into each other at the entrance like a bad dirty joke, and walk in holding hands, laughing, and nobody thinks a thing. Because they both know they’re sinners. And they both know they’re loved. You may believe that’s nuts. You may shake your head and remember all the Pharisees you know, and the shame in your own heart, and know it will never happen.
But it could.
It really could.
It starts with you. It starts with me. Just believing the Gospel.
We have to focus our stare on the Good News and not look away for judgmental stares or arrogant whispers or talk of our hanging out with the wrong crowd.
It’s not going to be easy. Count the costs.
Then laugh at the costs.
Because… well, Jesus.
I struggle almost every day. Sometimes, nonstop. I doubt, I’m angry and bitter and arrogant and I struggle with my self-worth. I don’t like people very much, I lust, I have poor social skills and I’m a crappy friend sometimes.
That’s really difficult to say.
In fact, I’m just pretending, at this point, that I’m not actually going to publish this. But I’d rather chance that you see that Jesus is for the screwed up than think church is some kind of elite club for the arrogant few. And because I’m a liar to say anything different. I’m dishonest to cherry pick. I misrepresent the God of my faith to say anything less.
And, even though I don’t like people…
because of Jesus, I love you.
(Jesus is always messing up my self-righteousness)
This isn’t therapy, it’s truth. It’s professing our need for Jesus. It’s comfort for a fellow Christian and our witness to the non-Christian. “Christ died for sinners, of whom I am the worst!” I promise you, there’s someone you know, someone in your church, that’s struggling so hard right now and they think they’re alone.
And because we think it’s about us and our goodness, they’ll continue to suffer alone.
I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. Guilt doesn’t work. I’m saying, the gospel is that we aren’t alone. The gospel is that we are loved. The gospel is that our deep, abiding existential angst can be brought to the table too, because it’s not so big that God can’t handle it. It’s not too much that the blood of God’s own Son doesn’t cover it.
My point is: if there are people that are suffering alone—and there are gobs—we haven’t been honest about the Gospel. We haven’t said it right. Or maybe we’ve been saying it in a way that they haven’t understood. (Or maybe we haven’t understood.)
The thing is, we are frightened of the Good News because it frees us and—as good as that sounds—we don’t want to be completely free. We want people to tell us what to do sometimes.
We take comfort in the idea that it’s about how we look and act. Because then we can pretend to be better than we are. We don’t have to talk about our doubts. We don’t have to talk about our deep hurts. Sunday morning we can get our ego stroked. The rest of the time, we can just sit back and be moral examples to the world. But that’s just a game. That’s not real. People see right through our act, and those that don’t just walk away because they think they’re not enough. When that’s the whole point!
None of us are enough! But we’re all loved.