"He breaks all social etiquette in relating to people. He acknowledges no barriers or human divisions. There is no category of sinners he isolates himself from. Simply stated, Jesus is a miserable failure at meeting religious people's expectations of him. He connects with the kinds of people he should disregard. He attends the wrong dinner parties. He is rude to respected religious leaders and polite to whores. He reprimands his won followers and praises outsiders and riffraff."
I can genuinely say that on most days, I care far more about what people think about me than who I am for real. I want to be Jesus to others around me, but most of the time I want to do it with as much tact as possible. It is so easy to put up that wall, to justify my actions because of who I am surrounded by. The people that seem to have it all together, the "perfect" ones, that is who I put myself up against. Most ladies in church have it all together, toned, tan and dressed younger I am. That is tough to compete with. I struggle. My thoughts are not always pure, my words are not always honoring and uplifting. I fall into the gossip trap. And so, I put on my best face because nobody wants to see that! How humiliating. People tell me they want their children to be like me, they support me when I leave this little town to minister to the poor and neglected in other towns and countries. I can't be that person, I can't fail. So instead of being honest, I put forth the ever present "I'm doing great" lingo.
The book I am currently reading, Grace for the Good Girl, is changing my world. God is teaching me, through scripture and spiritual insight from Emily, that I put a smile on even when things aren't great. It deeply saddens me to think that in the church, a place we should be able to seek refuge in Christ and in those around us with loving arms, that most people would never be willing to admit their struggles. I know it would take a lot for me to, anyways. It's just not how things work here in the South. As women, we are taught social ques and etiquette that we are to obey. But when I look at Jesus, it seems that there is more to life than this. If we never cross a line, if we are never persecuted for our faith, are we truly walking as Christ did? Is our smile letting people into our struggles? Allowing others to be changed because of a fellowship of believers that have found victory and freedom from sin and oppression in Christ and not through our own efforts?
As I look at my own life, I see past my smile and into a heart that is broken and put back together again. All in private. Out of the prying eyes of anyone who doesn't truly care about me. I couldn't let them see that! A sin shredded heart, given to God and redeemed from hell? It's messy, it's personal. It probably wouldn't be accepted and if it was, you know people would talk.
Jesus was hated. The things He did we definitely not socially acceptable. He loved to dirty, the smelly, the scandalous, the liars.
My story before God is not much different than my story after God. Being saved at such a young age, I did not have a dramatic story of redemption from something horrible. I'm not the person that is asked to give my testimony because of the shock factor. And yet, I am a sinner all the same. You see, while I put on this face that everything is great all of the time I seem to exclude myself from that list of icky things that Jesus associated with. I am willing to go to far away countries and love people that are those things and worse, but that's not me. No sir. Not on the outside, not to you. I don't want to be hated. I don't want to be mocked. I want social acceptance.
And then I read a little into the scripture and Paul throws this curve ball,
"Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3: 1-11
Philippians 3: 1-11
This life that I live is to be holy and set apart. As Paul said, it is righteousness that comes through faith in Christ that I seek. It is not this self-serving, make-it-look-easy, I-can-sustain-me life that I try so hard to find. I am the icky sinner. I am hated as He was. I offer my life to share in His sufferings and to see as He did. It's about HIM, not me at all.
I want to let people in. Being a follower of Christ is not easy, at least not to me. Taking a step into the background and allowing people to see the beautiful me through Christ is the challenge. Trying to make everything look easy-peasy, I get in the way. The Christ-centered sinner, saved by grace is more beautiful than anything I have to offer. The icky one that will not be accepted, that is who I am. Lord, may my smile be inviting - may my heart be reminded to draw near to you.
As Emily says, "I choose my reputation over authentic relationship. That is not the way I want to live. What about you?"