Monday, November 22, 2004 AD 'Yet Without Sin' I used to puzzle over Hebrews 4:15 because it seemed as if Jesus couldn't really sympathize with us if He wasn't a sinner. After all, that's the common wisdom of Evanjellydom, isn't it? The way to reach sinners is to tell them stories about how you used to be as bad as they were until you accepted Jesus as your Personallordandsaviorô. A testimony story is weighed and found wanting if it doesn't contain several tons of juicy sin and misery. People who have "been there" are automatically deemed to be the best people to reach those who are still there -- by virtue of their experience rather than their gifting. If someone hasn't been right where I am -- hasn't walked the same path and committed the same crimes -- that he couldn't have anything to offer me. If he doesn't hang the dirty laundry of his most heinous sins from the sanctuary chandeliers, then he must be a hypocrite, inauthentic, phony.
Does God use the weak to confound the foolish? Of course He does. Does he sometimes call people from the swill of the gutter to the water of life and then back to the gutter to pick up those who remain? Of course He does. But that's not the basis for judging someone's fitness for any kind of ministry -- be it informal counseling and discipleship or full-time pastoral ministry. The requirements for elders and deacons listed in 1 Timothy and Titus make that clear. In fact, they may even rule out those with too much past history depending on your take on the "husband of one wife" clause. The best human source for learning godliness is people who are really experienced at being godly. To go back to the verse in Hebrews, Jesus can sympathize with us because of His humanity, but He's only any use to us as Savior, Shepherd, Counselor, etc. because He did not sin.
The mistake I've made for decades in choosing friends is in letting myself be drawn to people who were weak like me in the same ways, and more often than not, we became the blind leading the blind, bewailing our bruises as we sat in the bottom of ditch after ditch after ditch. And I've ended up drifting away from friendship after friendship after realizing that I wasn't really getting anything out of it or putting anything into it. There was as much sympathy as a pathetic creature could wish for, but not the right kind -- not the kind Jesus has for His people, the kind that's standing on solid ground and has the leverage to yank us out of the ditch.
Fearing that I'll never fit in has been a challenge for me in places where I know myself to be less than the least of those there. But that's OK! It's OK to be in a place where I can learn from so many people who are doing well (not perfectly, but well) at things that I can only dream of attempting. It's OK to be in a place where I am receiving so much more than I could give. The giving may be more blessed, but the gettin' ain't half bad, neither!
P.S. Just because I'm criticizing one extreme of the pendulum swing, doesn't mean I haven't seen, experienced and been guilty of the other. Of course there is hypocrisy, coldness, etc. in the church. But if you are the sort that is in want of sympathy for your weaknesses, then you're going to have to be willing to give it for theirs -- all the moreso because of the danger their blindness leaves them in. Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 11/22/2004 08:27:00 PM
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