sunday morning rambling
Often, in an attempt to give myself a stronger sense of control and duty I believe I have created more to do for myself as a christian than I need too.
My battle with depression and anxiety puts me in a unique position of fighting against my own heavy feelings each day. Add to that my innate testosterone deficiency because of my cancer surgery three years ago and you have a wonderful recipe for downward spirals each day.
But, what I find to be my greatest trigger is the voice in my head that says:
“I have to work out my salvation on my own because God will not accept me if I have any sin in my life.”
Other ways of wording it:
"I have to get my crap in order before I can approach God"
"God demands a spotless bride."
And so it goes. However, the more I read Jesus the more I realize that Jesus himself only got into the whole, “measurements of sin to I-am-super-awesome-don’t-even-try-to-judge-me ratio” with people who wanted to measure their own righteousness with his own. For Jesus he knew where He stood on the “righteousness levels” meter, the top. From where Jesus stood he wanted to reach down and bring others up to be with him, but what he found in the hearts of many of the religious leaders was pride. They thought their poop didn’t stink, that they were better than other people, they were like Dragon Ball Z fans who believed they had actually reached super Saiyan levels.
It was mindsets like this that often burned Jesus’ grits. It wasn’t people who were trying to work out their issues and failed, it was prideful people who were trying to get people to look to them for answers rather than God. Jesus strongest responses were often triggered by prideful people. That got me thinking about what things actually got Jesus mad?
Take note of Jesus’ varying levels of pissed-off-ness I can find/remember in the gospels.
Level one. “Mom why are you using me like your own personal bartender?”
Jesus own mother knows he has the super power juices flowing and requests that Jesus use those super powers to make more wine for the already intoxicated masses. This obviously annoys Jesus to the point where he refers to his own mother as “woman.” The boldness of Christ is perhaps no greater than in this passage where Jesus responds to his mother with the most typical teenage/young adult response ever, you know the one where you complain and say something highly sarcastic but still obey your parents anyways. Mary FTW.
Level two. “Jesus just wants a little bit of sleep, but these weenies won’t let him sleep.”
Jesus is asleep, and the disciples wake him up to deal with a storm because they are afraid they are going to die. They wake him up, scream for help, Jesus obliges their request, they freak out more because Jesus just went all Storm from X-men on the weather itself, He turns to them and chastises their faith levels (they are’t even close to super saiyan ), and then I imagine he just goes back to sleep.
Level three. “Get your ‘What Would Jehovah Do?’ bracelets out of my Dad’s house!”
In the next section of John 2, Jesus just straight up trashes the temple because dudes are selling stuff in Jesus’ Dad’s house. He doesn’t play. (note the holy spirit doves flying around him, Jesus has back up.)
Level four. “Peter tries to tell Jesus how it’s gonna be and He gets told how it is.”
(Here Jesus is giving the universal hand gesture for “use your noggin’” and Peter still has a hard time understanding Jesus.)
In Matt 16:21-28 Peter tries to tell Jesus that his whole “dying for the world” idea isn’t the greatest idea and in return Jesus calls him the devil. In general Jesus and Petey’s relationship is valuable because it shows the true patience of Jesus with us. Peter is the knucklehead of all knuckleheads and Jesus always scolds him but always welcomes him. It’s pretty great.
Level five. “Jesus tells everyone that the religious leaders are big jerks and that no one should do what they do.”
Read the passage, Jesus goes off on these leaders because they
“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
He says a host of other things, but mainly Jesus just goes off. It’s a warning for us of setting high standards for others, but refusing to meet those standards ourselves.
In all these situations Jesus shows us what really, really, makes him mad. and Because Jesus is the incarnation we can truly understand what really makes God mad. Jesus has no big problem with sinners other than the fact that they are settling for a half-life they don’t have to settle for. Jesus invites them into a rich, full, and true life with Him. For Jesus the label “sinner” applies to all human beings, but at the same time He also is offering this opportunity to embrace the label we had before we labeled ourselves as sinners, “Children of God.”
This is kind of complex, but when you go back, way way back, to Genesis you see that in the creation narrative God is revealing something about human nature. The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” is the thing we aren’t supposed to eat of. It grants us this ability to grasp right and wrong, and thus when we eat of it we will try to dispense justice amongst ourselves rather than allowing God to judge us. In the creation narrative, all is at peace before Adam and Eve ate from that tree, then when they do everything goes cray cray and stuff.
Now you can take the creation narrative literally or figuratively, I don’t judge *cough*…Gungor..*cough*…I like him…*cough*…Ahem…
But either way this little piece of information is important if you are taking the Bible seriously, it’s important because creation narratives in all faiths are there to establish meaning to our existence and give insight into human nature. Here we clearly see that GOD DID NOT INTEND FOR US TO JUDGE OURSELVES. He is supposed to be the judge. And in the old testament you see the up and down struggle of humans struggling with allowing God to judge them freely. It’s all really messy because humans get caught up (like we always do) in performance, and God wants us to be dependent on Him, not our own power.
Jesus time on earth was not to “show us a new way to act” primarily, (yes he showed us many great example of how to act) It was to “BE” the new way. If anything the gospels pretty much show us that as human beings we are incapable of living sinless lives, showing us that our right standing with God has never really had that much to do with our actions. Even in our best moments we aren’t with out sin. Our right standing with God has to do with what Jesus has done for us. (Though its not that “new”, its kind of what we started with but we screw things up a lot… yeah I know moving on.)
What Jesus came to do is flip the whole game on its head and say, “you can’t change your behaviors by simply focusing on your behaviors. You have to have your hearts changed, humbled, and softened. I am here to do that for you if you choose to believe in me, I will change your heart because I love you. Further more, if you engage with that love it will change you into a more loving people, and that does’t mean you are a bunch of hippies who only talk about your feels all the time. You will be a rich, diverse people, but you will be united by love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and grace.” We will be able to be that kind of people because we have been shown what that looks like by Jesus.
We won’t have to have pre-determined plans for people based on sin, we can just walk with everyone knowing that Jesus is going to work in their lives to help them live more richly and fully.
But, it all starts with me remembering as an individual that God doesn’t require perfection, He just demands a heart that seeks him.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
Jesus wants our hearts to break for the people who’s hearts are breaking, not break hearts with our own demands for righteousness. Those demands that leave our mouths are often just echoes from inside ourselves: sins, short comings, and wounds that we refuse to allow God to touch, to heal, to mend. Christ’s judgement of us is simply that we are welcomed, He does address the “good enough” thing by saying no one is perfect accept Him, all He asks is that we believe in Him, but like the crowds in John 6 we often don’t receive Him because of the wounds we haven’t forgiven ourselves or others for. These festering wounds drives us to create ideologies, theologies, and philosophies that allow us to gestate our wounds full term, and what they birth is not the righteousness of God that reaches low, down to the person who would be our enemy or someone we don’t care for and love them. Instead it creates boundaries that create reasons for us to not engage, to not love, to withhold, and not welcome.
To that I end I am the first among the sinful, my heart is dark, full of wounds that demand vengeance. I am praying that Jesus would penetrate my heart, and that He would soften it. But until that day I will often have to say to myself “Get behind me Satan.” Because I have not yet fully welcomed and trusted Jesus plan in my own life. But, as I see in the story of Peter in the gospels I am ever thankful that Jesus loves me and is patient with me, and welcoming me.
I am made spotless not by my own work, but by the work of Jesus in me.
In other words…
And Trust God a little more.