There are times that I believe that God is genuinely trying to wreck my little world that I am so content living within. The reality is that, well, He is.
When God gave us the direction to move eighteen hours away, we did it. When He told me to pursue my book further, I did it. Now He has given me this ideology that I just can’t seem to shake and know that it will lead me through a difficult, but ultimately honoring and humbling path.
As a believer in my late 20’s I’ve gained a little perspective. I have allowed myself to forgive my younger self for the (now) obvious mistakes I chose to make. I have grown in how I approach (and cherish) relationships with my friends and my family. I have learned to appreciate knowledge and wisdom, especially that which comes from God, whether revealed through spoken word or scripture or simply God whispering to the depths of my soul. It’s been a good journey thus far. But what if I’m missing the bigger picture of this thing called life? What if being a Christian is so much more that I ever imagined?
There is clearly a struggle in the post-modern society that America finds itself in today. The church is fighting to remain relevant and sometimes stumbles over its own systematic belief system that was created on different morals and values. What changes in light of the times and what do we stand firm on? Of course if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if the church was built solely on the principles of Jesus, there would be no need for change. It would transcend beyond a political infrastructure and the logistics of organizational necessities. It would stand out from society as a “light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden.” So where have we so gravely miss-stepped? Where has my own life been shaped by a temporal church platform rather than the rugged and grimy truth that composes the Gospel in all of its beauty and splendor?
In one single misconception: we have created an environment where we believe that being sanctified equates to living a life separated from everything “dirty” in the world.
Oh, you don’t believe in Jesus? Ok, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.
You don’t read the Bible in your classes? Ok, we need to find a new school.
You want me to do more than write a check to serve as my form of service? Ok, it’s time to find a new church.
Yes, I realize this might make some (read: many) of you uncomfortable. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable because it is forcing me to recognize the areas in my own life where my attempts at sanctification are more equitable to sanitation. Separating ourselves from the broken people of the world has created a false pedestal that we waiver upon, desperately trying to remain “holy,” all the while missing the point that down in the dirt and grime is where Jesus spent His life on earth.
Jesus said, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:33-40 NIV)
The more I read Matthew 25, the more I realize that I have so often missed the point. I go to church; I love Jesus; I even write a check to support missionaries serving and sharing the love of Jesus to others around the world. But I have missed so many opportunities to be the love of Jesus to others around me.
There is no way to misconstrue the fact that Jesus loves the broken and weary and down-right dirty. He cherishes them. And instead of loving and cherishing people, we sanitize ourselves from them, lest we become more like them.
Sanctification has nothing to do with separating ourselves from the broken. It has everything to do with allowing God to separate our heart from the desires of the world that it may be molded to love the broken as much as He does.
Simply because a person has money does not make them any more holy than those who have none. A person who sits in church every week is not more holy than the person who prays every night that they will simply survive another day on the street. Designer name clothes do not define status, a willing and serving heart does.
I long with my whole being to be sanctified before God. I long for Him to make me holy and set apart. I long to be more like Jesus, who is all of this and so much more.
In becoming more like Jesus, in becoming sanctified, my heart must break for that which Jesus’ broke for. His heart broke for all of us. It broke for the hurt and destitute. It broke for the ostracized and outcast. It broke for those who suffered at the hand of the unjust and self-righteous.
It wasn’t contingent on those people having the same beliefs or performing the correct rituals. It was a matter of the heart and even if they didn’t believe, Jesus still loved. He didn’t compromise who He was or what He did, but He still loved them right where they were at, in the midst of their dirty and unholy brokenness.
There is a way to remain steadfast and sanctified and still love as Jesus loved. There is a way to stand firm on our convictions and beliefs and still reach out genuinely to those around us who don’t share those same principles. It is through sanctification by service. It is through self-sacrificing our own preconceived notions and to hear the stories of those who live in the trenches of society.
Will we be known as a generation that left the church to die, or will we be the generation that allows our spirits to become sensitive to the leading of God to revitalize the church and create a new standard? Will we be the people set apart, never experiencing the wonder that comes from allowing God to “mess up” our life, or will we be the people set apart because we have allowed God to take over and guide into the mess that comes with loving people-all people, broken and all-the way that Jesus loves them?
It is a great challenge that has been issued, but I pray that we will be courageous enough to trust Jesus and dive in.