Thursday, July 02, 2009

Who Did Jesus Come For?

At the beginning of this week, I received a letter from a family for whom I have great respect.  They are a family of some wealth and privilege, fairly young, healthy, with intelligent and gifted children.  The kind of family every church wants. They wrote in their letter their extreme displeasure with me as a pastor, spoke disparagingly of my character, and withdrew their membership from the church.  Much pain in my soul--grief over their departure, grief over significant misunderstandings, grief over my own mistakes and immaturities.

At the end of the week, I sat in my office with an older man who gave me the privilege of hearing his life story.  He grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father, quit school and left home early, took a long-running turn to drugs and alcohol, had multiple marriages and divorces, experienced the death of daughter of a gunshot wound from her mother's boyfriend's gun, and has a felony conviction and prison time behind him.  His sister and her partner--and how those words raise hackles in the eyes of some of most religious of people--took him in a few years ago, got him to AA, and helped him get back on his feet.  Such means of grace these two women were!

We talked about the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.  We talked about the invitation to enter into the life of grace through Jesus.  I asked him, "Have you ever been baptized?  Do you know what it means to be baptized?"  He answered, "Please tell me what it means."  And so we discussed that it is an outward sign of the inward grace given to him by God where all is forgiven and he is totally one with God again.  And so I asked him, "Do you want to be baptized?"  And he said, "I've been waiting for you to ask me.  Yes, I do!"

So, it seems that this church, this embodied community of Christ, has lost one very lovely family with future and hope and possibility in front of them and gained one beat up older man with a life of regrets and pain and abuse behind him.  Which did Jesus come for?  Both, of course.  In Jesus day, which would have been mostly likely to have received him gratefully?

An intriguing question.  Would be interested in some comments.

1 comment:

Angie Hammond said...

OK you wanted some comments. I have several thoughts on what you asked. First off without knowing what the family said they were displeased about in you, I can say that in Jesus time those that turned away from him were many. And they had just as many reasons for not following him. Of course many followed him as well for just as many reasons.
As for which type of person received him most gratefully.

I'd answer that this way. When a person makes the choice to receive Jesus, they acknowledge that they are imperfect and they need what he has for them that being forgiveness. In their willingness to accept forgiveness, they then open the door to be able to forgive others as well as themselves.

The gospels are full of stories of Jesus and those he had contact with. Many of the stories are of sinners that were healed. The woman at the well comes to mind. And then then Jarius the man whose daughter was dying when Jesus healed the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. The two women were definitely not well off on the other hand Jarius was a respected leader with servants and a family. As the stories are told all received what Jesus had to offer them gratefully. All had needs, and all were different but all were very grateful.

I'm thinking that the thing that connects them all together is that they all realized at some point their need for Jesus and then accepted what he had for them.

In my humble opinion, I believe that it is always easier to say you don't need Jesus when everything is wonderful and life is smooth. Of course it is just as hard to embrace Jesus when all seems to go wrong no matter how hard you pray. And yet time after time we see Jesus caring for the lost ones or the forgotten ones as well as the well off.

So In Jesus time who do I think would have received him most gratefully? Well the old man who had lived a life of sin and had been forgiven and accepted it. Why because he knew the value of what he had been given. He understood his unworthiness and the price that was paid for his sins. And then above all else, he could finally forgive himself and in turn forgive others as he had been forgiven.

As for those that were well off and healthy and had accepted Jesus and his forgiveness. Yes they would have been grateful, but I don't think they would have been as grateful because their needs were not as much as those of the man.

So I believe that the most grateful are the ones who have the most needs that are met. Doesn't matter if they are wealthy or not or healthy or not. What seems to matter the most is their need and how Jesus meets it and their willingness to accept what he offers them.

Finally I offer this to you not knowing any of what was said about you in the letter. Know this, many don't want to hear that Jesus came for all and not just a select few. We all make mistakes and we all need forgiveness. I realize that you are in much pain over all of this. Time will heal these wounds, but you need to hear as well that you are loved and forgiven as well.

So because Jesus has forgiven me, I say to you Christy Thomas that in Jesus' name you are forgiven.

Peace Be With You Always,