If church is a haven, why is it those of us who have been delivered from the deepest, darkest pits of Hell feel compelled to spend most of our time outside its walls?
I love my home church, but to me, the idea of hanging out there all the time when the world is dying around me is akin to standing around at the gas station all day. When I need gas I get filled up and then leave. Same way with church; I go in on Sunday’s, get filled up and then go out into the real world.
Sounds weird to some, I suppose, but Jesus was the same way. He was very faithful to church (Luke 4:16), don’t get me wrong, but He definitely hung out with a few seedy characters. In the 2nd chapter of Mark, Jesus was caught hanging out with Levi, a tax collector, and other “sinners.” In that day, tax collectors were mostly known as cheats and liars (no IRS comments from the peanut gallery), and heavily looked down on. I can picture Jesus sitting around the table, laughing and telling stories, when the Pharisees, the high and mighty religious leaders of the day, asked His disciples:
“If your master is such a righteous person, then why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners, the worst among us (verse 16)?”
Hearing them, Jesus responded, “Sick people need the doctor, not healthy ones! I haven’t come to tell good people to repent, but the bad ones (verse 17).”
“Drop the mic,” as my son always says. Man, how do you argue with that?
The Lord’s ability to save that which was lost never ceases to amaze me. Take, for example, some of my best friends, who have survived their own version of Hell and lived to tell the tale.
My Uncle Aaron ran from God so hard, hacked so much paint, took so many drugs, drank so much alcohol and totaled so many vehicles, I’m honestly amazed he’s conscious. Yet here he stands, playing bass for the church worship team and running his own version of a part-time soup kitchen, handing out food to the poor and needy.
Both my sister, Annette, and daughter, Jessica, were drug addicts, and in abusive relationships. Things looked bleak for Netty and Jess for a long time, but thank God for His mercies. They escaped the malevolent clutches of addiction and abuse, and are both clean and in healthy relationships today.
Or take John, for example. He was not only a major heroin addict, but spent time in the state penitentiary. Today he is the lead pastor of CityReach Springfield (MO), and an Area Director in Prison Fellowship.
While everyone is welcome to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, I think God’s heart beats most fierce for those the world has deemed “losers.” It’s a fact: once you have stared death in the face (as I have in a suicide attempt and major depression, both stories for another time), there is no greater joy than life.
Aaron, Netty, Jess, John and I may have danced along the fiery edges of death, but our Lord rescued us from the flames. Now we sit amongst other “sinners” like ourselves, ecstatic in the knowledge that, when we were at our lowest, the Creator of Heavens and Earth reached His nail-scarred hand into the muck and mire and saved us.
“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)?”