Recently, a dear friend of mine who was not raised in the same Christian culture as I and most of my friends said to me, "You people really love Jesus, don't you?" Yes ... we are pretty much obsessed with Him.
Frankly, there is no reason to be a Christian without Him. With Him, there are many reasons to actually want to be a Christian.
I have been thinking about this a lot. Like many people in this world, I get frustrated with insincere religiosity, callous people who call themselves spiritual and yet consider themselves better than their fellows in humanity, and contentious people who draw all kinds of divisive lines over things that truly do not matter at all in the very epic scheme of things.
Sometimes mainstream symbols of my own religion make me sick to my stomach at the idea of Christianity. Even better, I see these sickening signs of insincerity in my own practice and watch my faithfulness dragging on the ground behind me like a pair of pants that are way too big with no belt to be found. Some days those trousers just fall completely to the ground and leave me embarrassed and ashamed of myself. Some days I look like a slob and a fool and I just don't have the energy to try to fit in or feel apologetic.
But it is because of the person Jesus Christ that I stick around. There are so many reasons for this, but one in particular keeps harping on my mind. It has to do with being healthy or sick.
There are so many initiatives in our society trying to encourage us to be healthy. Healthiness is good because it means not only that your life might last longer but also that the quality of said life will be improved. We are attracted to healthy people. Those emotionally, physically and relationally healthy people are just so desirable and alluring. [I find it interesting that most people excel in one area of healthiness, not usually all. It's hard to find a balance in healthiness!]
The unhealthy are considered less attractive in our society -- except for when they allow us to feel better about our own shortcomings. Many of those mentally, physically or emotionally unsound folks become the outcasts of society or at least social groups. We can't usually deal with another person's profound lack of health because we in ourselves are not usually strong enough to cope with the way another person's dysfunction spotlights our own. Not to mention the fact that we are left incredibly weary trying to overcome our own illnesses. I'm not talking about bodily illness.
This is why people like Mother Teresa bring us to our knees in awe -- she touched and loved and mingled with the most sick and unsound for her life's work. I drive by a seriously sick homeless man on my way to work every day. Every day tears spring to my eyes and I want to jump out of my car and embrace him and love that illness right out of his life -- but I do not. I'm way too scared. (Heck -- I am way too scared to be in the same room with a puking person for fear I'll end up puking, too!) Mother Teresa would've done it. (!!!) She would've done it because she had encountered the impressive person of Jesus, who was filled with perfection yet brushed more than just shoulders with the most perverse of His contemporary society. She would've done it because she was acquainted with her own illness and knew how much she needed the touch of Jesus for healing.
While we draw lines and quarantine the sickest and try to keep ourselves pure, we can't run away from the haunting knowledge that inside of us is a sickness we can't do anything about. Sick egos. Sick thoughts. Distorted feelings and untimely reactions. Anger we can't control. Despair we can't admit. Outbursts we'll always regret. Inconsistency and hypocrisy. Repetitive self-destructive behavior. Total and complete inability to forever change the things we hate the most about ourselves. Insecurity that threatens to sell out the most unique and genuine aspects of our individual character. To God, our Creator, it was too important to let us carry on this way. He had to come down to earth. He had to bring His perfection to bear in the most non-judgmental, non-condemning way imaginable. The only One holy enough to have a right to condemn came not to condemn but to end the condemnation.
Now, today, the only way I can feel this presence is through the people who embody this kind of love and acceptance to me. The only way to get better is to receive that unconditional love and acceptance. When you do, it just has to spill right back out of you.
15-16Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?"
17Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit."(Mark 2 - The Message)
And then there are people who seem to channel this same Spirit, just from the heart somehow. (You can help!)