Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Don't Just Walk Like Jesus...Sit Like Him, Too

It's Christmas Eve this morning and I can't get the gay/lesbian debate raging on facebook out of my mind. What a bad time for this to happen...or maybe that was all in God's plan, as well. I just can't help thinking back to my earlier adult years as a newly wed, making for the first time decisions about who was and was not invited in my home, what parties we would be invited to, and so on. We made many mistakes. But, this Christmas Eve, these things are far more settled in my mind...but I know they are not settled in the mind of every young Christian out there.

There is a danger at a time like Christmas for those who are on the fence about how to "take a stance" to stumble blindfolded into the Pharisee's camp.

Yes, I'm a Christian. Yes, I believe the Bible...hook, line, and sinker. And yes, I believe homosexuality is a sin. I know that those Christians reading this really are searching for the answers to what I believe before really sinking into a chair and reading further. Jesus has been invited in my life, the Holy Spirit lives within my heart, and I don't practice such behaviors as may give someone reason to think I am making excuses for myself. I'm not saying that to boast--at all. I'm saying that because this same information coming from someone who has been caught up in such sins as adultery, homosexuality, and fornication, might very well be taken as excuse-making.

That out of the way, here are some things to keep in mind:

Jesus sat to dinner with sinners...

Mark 2: 15-17
And it happened that He {Jesus} was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The story's the same in Matthew 9:9-13, with this one primary addition:

Matthew 9: 12-13
But when Jesus heard this He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Of which we once were...

James 2: 9-13
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

The verse I put in bold above has had a profound impact on my life. Through junior high, high school, and even into young adult life, I had one sin that dominated me...pride. You see, I've never smoked, been drunk, got in a physical fight with anyone, slept with anyone outside of marriage, cheated on a test or paper, and I was honest to a fault. Even as a teen, I tithed everything I made, rarely missed church...and on it went. I was the "good girl". But, I hated. Yep, that's right. I hated.

I hated those who were happy even in the midst of sinful lives and those in my own life who sinned against me. I hated those who were asked Bible questions in Sunday school and didn't know the answer because they had missed lots of church when I hadn't. I hated those who didn't like me...since I was SO lovable. I hated those who used the Lord's name in vain or dressed immodestly compared to me. The list could go on and on!

The scariest passage in the bible to me was 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."

I've never had a problem answering bible questions or keeping away from the "bad and evil" things of this world...but I couldn't love. One day, a few years after Josh and I were married, I sat depressed and lonely and asked God what was wrong with me. I really wanted the answer this time. How could I be so "right" and yet so unhappy? (And don't get me wrong folks, even though I've grown leaps and bounds in this area...I STILL struggle with these areas that are so easy for many people...areas like kindness and mercy, etc.) And He gave me the answer in a verse I'm sure I had read before...after all I had read through the entire bible from cover to cover, and yes even all of Numbers and the genealogies.

The answer came in the form of a verse I had somehow been blinded to--completely. I wouldn't have believed it were there had I not read it in my own bible.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." James 2: 10

I SAW it! I mean, it hit me like an eighteen-wheeler. I thought of myself as a good person. But in about 30 seconds of God's reality check hitting my brain, I knew I was guilty. Not just a little guilty...I mean filthy, dirty, not worthy of a glance from above...guilty. And it HURT! I mean, all of a sudden this good little girl from the South, raised by a preacher, who knew all the right answers, who dressed properly and got good grades without ever cheating and never dared to go faster than 5 miles over the speed limit, was guilty of the filthiest sins there were. I dare say, with a gulp in my throat, that at that very moment, pictures came to my mind of ME doing those filthy things!! And enjoying them. I was guilty.

All in a comfy chair in front of a sunshiny window, I went from good little girl to guilty of the grossest sins you can imagine, without ever leaving that chair. I was full of shame. And I cried deeply. I could hardly stop. And for about the thousandth time in my life, I asked God to save me. Only this time was different. I didn't ask as a favor, to make sure I had said the right thing and done what a good little girl was supposed to. I NEEDED it. I was desperate for it.

In a dream, I had been thrown in a grave while still barely alive. I was paralyzed and not even my mouth could move. I had always asked God verbally, but I was unable. I merely pleaded with my eyes that He would know and would rescue me. And He noticed. And He pulled me out of the grave and then opened my mouth to say what I had been so desperate to, "Please! Please forgive me! Please have mercy and save me!" And He did not turn away. And I felt the deepest peace encircle me. It was a feeling I could hardly bare to endure. I knew that I was saved. No more asking over and over again. I had been forgiven of the worst already.

At that moment, the way I thought about others changed as well.

Oh, I still struggled with being kind and liking people, but I no longer saw them as less than me.

And, I was able to sit at table with sinners! I was able to serve them food and smile and throw all judgment to Jesus, who it had always belonged to anyway. And I was able to forgive those I viewed as filthy up until then. Because for the first time ever, I KNEW that I had also been guilty of the very same sins.

And calls us to do the same!

God doesn't call us to GO to church or DO church. He calls us to BE His church! I don't recall where that came from, but wow. Exactly. We don't just go and do church, we ARE his church.

We, as believers and followers of Christ, are called to be His hands and feet.

This Christmas, somewhere out there, there is someone debating whether to invite the newly "out" gay relative to Christmas gatherings. Somewhere out there today, is a pregnant teenager that is terrified to tell her family for fear that she will be alone on Christmas morning while flu-like symptoms rage in her body to testify to the sin she fell into. Somewhere there is a drunk women who has just screamed in rage at her children. She tries to hide it in an orange juice drink...worried that she'll fall asleep instead of putting Santa's presents out.

Will they be at your table this Christmas? Will you attend the party that they invite you to?

There is someone out there today that could be dead tomorrow night. And God is calling you to be in His seat, for Him, reclining at the table with sinners.

That drunk that could be at the bar, sitting at your cozy couch having hot cocoa in front of the fire.

That teenager contemplating suicide, but instead decides to accept the invite to dinner.

Homemade candy at New Years is passed to the young man who just "came out" instead of harsh words.

What if?

What if this person lived on another day to accept Christ in part because of the opportunity of another day your kindness made room for? Could angels be singing tomorrow instead of demons cheering at the death of a precious lost sheep?

So, will they?
Will sinners be around your table this Christmas season?

I sure hope so.

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