When I first read the Gospels, Jesus confused me. I remember being in high school, already a believer, and feeling the pressure to understand and “get” Jesus, but instead I couldn’t figure Him out. The people He chose to love and the folks He made His disciples didn’t make sense in my teenage head. Also, let’s just briefly talk about His stories… WHAT DID THEY MEAN? All I could see was that His love looked differently than my own, and that His values were different from mine.
My lack of understanding didn’t push me to give up my faith, rather I just kept my questions silent and stashed them away for a later, maybe I’d ask them when I was older.
In college I took Bible classes that made the Gospels come to life. I remember my New Testament professor explaining parables, giving context to the stories, and all of a sudden, although Jesus still seemed other-worldly, He wasn’t quite as random. But His love still looked differently from my own, and I was in awe of how He loved people where they were at and called them to something better.
Remember Zacchaeus? The wee little man? The tax-collector? The guy the religious shamed Jesus for staying with?
Jesus saw him, and loved him, and he went after Him. And Christ’s compassion led Zacchaeus to walk with the Lord.
And that Samaritan woman at the well? The one who most Jews wouldn’t even acknowledge unless to scoff at her? Jesus, knowing her sin, knowing how she had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man who she wasn’t even married to, HE WENT AFTER HER. But you want to know my favorite part of the story? It’s when the disciples spotted Jesus with her. The Message says it this way, when “His disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of woman” John 4:27.
And then let’s talk about when the woman “who was a sinner” came to a Pharisee’s house and washed Jesus’s feet. The entire time she kept washing and kissing the Messiah’s feet while the religious grumbled at Jesus, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!” So in true Jesus-fashion, he told a story that rebuked the Pharisees and at the end told the woman that her faith had saved her.
When I think about my life, and reflect on the love I’ve received, the love that has been most like Jesus is when people have seen me, the real me and all my mess, and loved me anyways. It’s been the friends who have sat with me in my brokenness, the people who knew the whole story and kept showing up anyways. It was the friends who chose to push me to faith rather than being appalled by my faults.
When I think about our world, our American society that loves the appearance of pretty + together + clean + unmessy, I wonder where we would find Jesus. Something inside of me tells me it wouldn’t be in the clean, uncomplicated stories that perpetuate a belief that Christ came to save the religious and ignore the broken sinners (of whom I’d prefer to have nothing to do with.) I don’t think He’d be found at the churches that turn down their noses at the drug addicts, the infidels, the prisoners, and the poor. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t find Him bragging about His latest degree or how much better off He is than those Muslim people who hate Americans. I don’t think we’d find Him mocking the guy with the porn addiction and telling him to “just stop.” I don’t think we’d find Him with the cool group of Christian celebs taking pics at the latest hipster coffee join.
When I think about His love and His work here on earth. I see a good and holy God who took on flesh to come be redemption in the most broken places. I see a Messiah who didn’t rub elbows with the elite, rather He made his home among us – the broken, the sick, the rejected. And I see a God who spoke plainly about who His people are and who they aren’t and what it looks like to follow Him. He tossed tables when the church made a mockery of His temple and He calmly laid down His life for all of us, the broken… and those who are so broken they don’t even recognize it.
In my greatest need, He came through via His people and as they loved me, He loved me. And yet, now on the other side, I’m looking at my life and wondering… if Christ were here in my life, who would He be loving? Who would He be going after? And I’m left with the haunting question… am I more like Jesus or the religious elite?
If I’m honest, my love comes up lacking. But praise God! He loves me still and calls me to something better – His upside-down way of loving the least of these.
And I’m asking you today to join me.
What does the love of Jesus look like in your own life?
Who and how can you love this week?
Would you join me in spending some time praying for God to open our eyes to His upside-down kingdom and redemptive love?
Cheering you on in love today fellow hopers,