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.