…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Hypocrisy, imperfections, messy people in church?
I admit, messy spirituality sounds . . . well . . . unspiritual.
Surely there are guidelines to follow, principles to live by, maps to show us where to go, and secrets we can uncover to find a spirituality that is clean and tidy.
I’m afraid not.
Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.
Look at the Bible. Its pages overflow with messy people. The biblical writers did not edit out the flaws of its heroes. Like Noah, for example. Everyone thought he was crazy. He certainly was a little strange, but Noah was also courageous, a man of great faith and strong will. Against the backdrop of unrelenting ridicule, Noah built a huge ark in the middle of the desert because God told him it was going to rain. No one believed him, but the rains did come and the flood happened, and after the water receded, Noah triumphantly left the boat, got drunk, and got naked. (Genesis 9:20-28)
What? Drunk and naked??? I don’t recall any of my Bible teachers or pastors talking about Noah’s . . . uh . . . moment of indiscretion . . . er . . . weakness . . . um . . . failure. The Noah I’ve always heard about was fi ercely faithful, irrepressibly independent, and relentlessly resolute. Noah was the model of great faith. Very few ever refer to Noah’s losing battle with wine. Maybe being strong and faithful has its downside. Maybe for flood survivors life is more complicated than we would like to think, and maybe even Noah could have bouts of depression and loneliness.
Why should I be surprised? Turns out all of the biblical characters were a complex mix of strengths and weaknesses. David, Abraham, Lot, Saul, Solomon, Rahab, and Sarah
were God-loving, courageous, brilliant, fearless, loyal, passionate, committed holy men and women who were also murderers, adulterers, and manic depressives. They were men and women who could be gentle, holy, defenders of the faith one minute, and insecure, mentally unstable, unbelieving, shrewd, lying, grudge-holding tyrants the next.
The New Testament characters weren’t much better. Look who Jesus hung out with: prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers,mental cases, penniless riffraff, and losers of all kinds. His disciples were hardly models of saintliness. They were committed to Jesus, were ready to follow him anywhere (with one notable exception), but they were also troubled by infighting, always jockeying for position, suspicious of each other, accusatory, impulsive, selfi sh, lazy, and disloyal. Most of the time, they did not understand what Jesus was talking about, and when he died, they had no clue what to do next. One very clear example of the messiness of the disciples took place in a tiny Samaritan village.
On their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples stopped in this village for the evening. The Samaritans, however, weren’t in a mood to cooperate. Most Jews didn’t give Samaritans the time of day, so the Samaritans decided to return the favor by making it clear that Jesus and his disciples weren’t welcome in their town. James and John (this would be the beloved disciple John) were furious, storming up to Jesus with the very undisciplelike question, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”(Luke 9:51-56). Not exactly an example of mature, unmessy discipleship.
You might say Christianity has a tradition of messy spirituality. Messy prophets, messy kings, messy disciples, messy apostles. From God’s people getting in one mess after another in the Old Testament to most of the New Testament’s being written to straighten out messes in the church, the Bible presents a glorious story of a very messy faith.
Sounds like you and I are in good company.
Messy Spirituality unveils the myth of flawlessness and calls Christians everywhere to come out of hiding and stop pretending.
Messy Spirituality has the audacity to suggest that messiness is the workshop of authentic spirituality, the greenhouse of faith, the place where the real Jesus meets the real us.
Source: Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, Christianity for the rest of us, Hodder & Stoughton, 2001, pg 6-9
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
Mar 20, 2015
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