We as Christians have a habit of seeing ourselves where we really shouldn’t in Scripture. There are times when God is speaking to you specifically, and there are times when he really just isn’t. We like to read ourselves into the story of David and Goliath. Just like David conquered his fears and his sin (represented by the big and scary Goliath), we can too! We also like to say that we’re just like Paul, where we once were antagonistic toward Christians we are now changed by Jesus! Or even see ourselves like Peter as we struggle with doubt. But there’s a problem here. You’re not David, Paul, or Peter and who you really are might not be who you hoped you’d be.
This last week, I attended a conference at my church. Every year the leadership of my church meets up to discuss the successes we’ve had the past year, what we need to improve on and what goals we should set for the upcoming year. We then share this with our district superintendent who leads the meeting and holds us accountable to last year’s goals.
Each meeting starts off the same way. We begin with a word of prayer and then our district superintendent shares a brief message from a Bible passage typically encouraging our ministry and inspiring us to persevere. However, this time his message wasn’t so inspiring.
He read the following passage in Mark 2:1-12.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
“Many of you probably imagined yourself as one of the good friends helping your emotionally or physically crippled friend see Jesus. Some of you may have seen yourself as that crippled friend and when you felt you couldn’t go on any more, some good friends helped you through it. Some of you might have even pictured yourself as Jesus…which if that’s the case then we need to have a conversation. But none of you probably imagined yourself as a member of the crowd blocking people from the grace of God.”
Whoa. His words cut at me as he spoke them. Was I part of the crowd? Have I ever attempted to block access to Jesus (intentionally or unintentionally)?
It made me think of all the times that I’ve tried to establish what level of theology someone needs to understand to be considered a Christian. Do they have to understand and believe in penal substitution at0nement theory to be considered Christian? Do they have to exhibit a certain level of patience, kindness and love to be considered Christians? Do they have to look, act and think like me to have access to Jesus? Or worse, do they have to be middle-class white Americans for me to introduce them to Jesus?
Part of the glory of the Gospel and the beauty of His Grace that I think we quickly forget is how Jesus desires that all people come to him regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey and regardless of how sanctified or holy they are.
We would be right in remembering that God’s grace is scandalous, beautiful and counter cultural. God invites all to Himself and sometimes we just need to get out of the way.