Some time ago I experienced a real slap in the face. I deserved it. I had it coming. It could have been avoided, but I was too stupid to get out of my own way. So, I got was coming to me. …And I’m grateful for it.
God works in ways I cannot comprehend. To say I’m working on linear segments of understanding while he’s offering cubic curves of wisdom is an understatement. So, when he sends a stray sheep into the potential flock for shepherding, that’s a fantastic thing. And, what happens if that stray sheep is a person you’ve said some negative things about? Then what?
First, let us deal with the emotional response. I was setting in church and in strolls a guy that I wouldn’t typically figure would be found in the church. Additionally, considering the expositional nature of the preaching, our church isn’t for the ‘name it and claim it’ types of crappy Gospel I assumed this person might gravitate towards. After all, the preaching of the “Good News” is convicting, and fewer and fewer wish to point their high-powered dissection tools at themselves while gazing into the mirror. To say I was floored is an understatement.
This did have a chilling effect on me though. For an instant, I was surprised when I applied what I thought of and about this guy and the place he’d just entered. Then, I was overcome with disappointment in myself. Doesn’t he qualify as the “neighbor” in Matthew 22:37-39 – And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’???? I didn’t turn on the tears, but it was an emotionally overwhelming moment for me. I kept it together, but that rush of feelings was darned hard to handle. What the heck have I been doing all this time? Does this person need Christ any less than anyone else? I had to dig deep and get myself right in order to fully pay attention to the service.
Now for the ideological problem. What kind of discipleship have I been involved in that denies people I find vain and selfish? What must this person think of me? The subject of this person and his behavior has come up over the years. My comments and responses to the manner in which he’s carried himself can’t be categorized as kind or forgiving. No sir, they were critical to a fault and lacked any shred of empathy. I don’t suggest when we judge and discern that we grade on a curve. We’re not to turn a blind eye to sin. Yet, when I recognized these traits in him, did I pray for him or offer him a seat at the table? I did not. I only got things half right. I identified the behavioral components I’m not supposed to embrace, but did absolutely nothing about it. In fact, I’d wager what I did was worse. I saw sin, bitched about it as if I happened to be sinless, and didn’t posit Him as the solution. For a so-called born-again believer, I fell plenty short of the mark on this one.
The Lord trotted this person into that church through various catalysts, but not only for his benefit. Also mine. There was a lesson for me, and it wasn’t deeply disguised. It was right in my face. Talk about getting a slap across the back of the beanie! I was pretty down on myself initially, but God is graceful like this and provided me with a method to correct my ignorant behavior and thoughts.
Now all I have to wrestle with is not running this guy off because I’m so excited to see him among us. I have a tendency to pour it on a little thick when people come exploring, so I have to resist the temptation to go too far too quickly. I know what it is like to attempt to drink from a firehose, and many times it is too much for people, and they tune out… I managed to jump hurdles one and two. Now for hurdle three. Pray, we do this well as a body of believers.
I pray he becomes both salt and light, as should you and I.