Friday, October 12, 2007

The God of Losers

I am reading this excellent book by Shane Claiborne called The Irresistible Revolution...living as an ordinary radical. This part just hit me between the eyes and it is really what I think we should be doing.

Whenever someone tells me they have rejected God, I say, "Tell me about the God you've rejected." And as they describe a God of condemnation, of laws and lightning bolts, of frowning gray-haired people and boring meetings, I usually confess, "I too have rejected that God."

I've met a lot of Christians who say, "If people knew about all my struggles and weaknesses, they would never want to be Christian." I think just the opposite is true. If people really knew what idiots we are, in all our brokenness and vulnerability, they would know that they can give this thing a shot too. Christianity is for sick people. Rich Mullins used to say, "Whenever people say, 'Christians are hypocrites,' I say, 'Duh, every time we come together we are confessing that we are hypocrites, weaklings in need of God and each other.'" We know that we cannot do life alone, and the good news is that we don't have to. We are created for community.

Bono, the great theologian (and decent rock star), said it like this in his introduction to a book of selections from the Psalms: "The fact that the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers, and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort." Consider King David, whom many Christians remember as a man after God's own heart. Well, David breaks just about every one of the Big Ten Commandments in about two chapters of the Bible-he covets, commits adultery, lies, murders (and this all after he answered God's call)-and yet he is still one of the losers God trusted and used. Matthew's Gospel gives us the genealogy of Jesus, which could compete with any of our families on the dysfuntionality thermometer. One of my favorite parts is when Matthew gets to the section of the genealogy that involves David's infamous sex scandal with Bathsheba, he makes sure we all remember everything that went on there. (David had Uriah killed.) What a mess! So if that is the Son of God's lineage, none of us can be too bad off. No wonder people were always asking about Jesus, "Whose kid is this? Isn't he from Nazareth?" Galilee was the hub of peasant revolts and uprisings. It was notorious, the badlands. Whenever people call our neighborhood the Badlands, as it is commonly referred to by locals, and they imply that nothing good can come from here, I remind them that that's exactly what people said about Nazareth, and look what showed up there.

Consider the fact that Jesus tells parables like the one about the Good Samaritan. Look at the hero-a Samaritan? Jews did not like Samaritans, thought they had some whacked out views about God and worship. They wouldn't even walk through Samaria. But Jesus tells a story in which the Samaritan is the hero and the priest is the loser who passes his neighbor by. That's the kind of thing that ticked the religious elite off.

I recently spoke at a large youth gathering. Afterward, a crowd of teenagers came up and asked for my autograph. At first, I laughed at the idea, but then my heart ached as they told me that they rarely got to actually meet the speaker. Each night, I stayed until all the kids were gone. We prayed together, told jokes, sat around and sang songs; it was incredible. And yet some still asked for autographs. So here's what I did. I explained to them that I would write them a note, and this is what I wrote: "This is not an autograph, because there is nothing special about me that is not also special about you. Never forget that you are beautiful, just like everyone else." Yeah, my hand got tired, but I think they began to get it. Rich Mullins used to say, alluding to the Old Testament story in which God speaks through a donkey, "God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and God's been speaking through them ever since." So if God should choose us, we shouldn't think too highly of ourselves. And we should never assume that God cannot use someone, no matter how ornery or awkward they appear to be.

A buddy of mine who is a fairly prominent youth minister just told me about a trip he took with a bunch of teenagers to one of those "mountaintop" spiritual retreats with lots of tears, confessions, and spiritual goose bumps. On the way up, the van had a flat tire of the worst kind-in the rain, no tools, a bad spare. As all the kids stared out the window, his temper escalated and went beyond the tipping point. He lost it and started yelling, cussing, and kicking the blessed thing. Finally, he was able to get the van going, climbed back in, and told everybody to shut up and leave him alone for a bit. A little embarrassed, they headed on to the retreat, with a few snickers coming from the back of the van. He said the retreat was the same as it was every year, with the worship, preaching, and altar call. But that year, something crazy happened. One of his toughest kids from the ghetto told him the week after they returned that he had given his life to Jesus. My friend was a bit stunned and asked him to explain how it happened. "Was it the messages, the altar call?" The young man said, "No, it was on the way up when I saw you cussing at the van. I thought, If he can be a Christian, I can give this thing a shot too."

There are so many people who are longing to be brought to life, who know all too well that they have done evil and long to hear not only of a God who embraces evildoers but also of a church that does the same.

Let Amadeo be that church. Be MoVeD!

Shane Claiborne Lives in community in the inner city of Philadelphia. You can read about his ministry at http://www.thesimpleway.org/

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeni said...

Now that was a darned good "sermon." I know - not intended as a sermon per se, but it is because it points out that we are all sinners -each of us -and yet, God loves each of us because of that, in spite of our weaknesses. Some very good words in there.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Keith,

Off topic, but, I did a post on the "Top 100" songs of all time. You're the only metal guy I know. What's the best?

Best,

Dave.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Pinay said...

i'm glad i read this post... thanks.

7:09 PM  
Blogger friend said...

sweet!

7:45 PM  
Blogger Crusader said...

Very good stuff bro

12:06 PM  

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