Pieces

Unreserved, unrestrained… 

If I could describe my generation – millennials- in one word… well that would be really hard. But one of the words that springs to mind when I think of my generation and our world today is tolerance. Tolerance is a word that is tossed around in lots of different ways and in every sphere of society, especially in developed nations. The dictionary defines tolerance as: “the ability to withstand or tolerate something; particularly the existence of opinions or behaviors that one does not necessarily agree with”. Another word for tolerance is acceptance. Millennials, as a whole (there are always exceptions) are very tolerant people. They fight for acceptance of people, and opinions, even though they may be different from their own. They desire a world in which difference are embraced and celebrated. They desire an intersectional society that supports anyone and everyone and does not pass judgement for someone else’s choices that don’t affect them. And that is often the way they want their church to be. Tolerant. Accepting.

You don’t give your heart in pieces.

Now when I read that description above of tolerance, it doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Accepting other people’s ideas and behaviors, even though you may not agree with them, is not necessarily something to be frowned upon. However as a church, I believe we walk a fine line between Jesus’ acceptance, and the world’s acceptance. If you read the Bible (which you should, we all should) there are lots of things in it that Jesus says: “don’t do that”. It’s not just a guideline, like you probably shouldn’t do that, but it’s a clear don’t do it because it will keep you from being with Jesus. We say at church all the time that sin keeps us from Jesus, but in this increasingly tolerant world I see people beginning to say “well what really is considered sin?” The thing is, we don’t have to guess. Jesus tells us, in the Bible, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s also pretty clear in the Bible, that sin is sin. No one thing is worse than another. If God asks us not to do it, and then you do it, that’s pretty bad and you’re going to need to repent before you can be with him. Tolerance in an extreme sense would question this. When we become completely tolerant we begin to say “well that’s just their opinion/behavior that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t make it bad, so I should accept them and it’s okay.” But no, if it’s sin, it’s not. We as a church should be unafraid to recognize sin in our lives turn to Jesus, rather than just dismiss it as a “difference of opinion”. Jesus didn’t dismiss sin. He died for it.

You don’t give your heart in pieces.

Something else that I would argue, about acceptance, is that sometimes the church needs a little more of it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the commandments and teachings of Jesus, and all the things he told us not to do that we miss the part where Jesus was crazy. I mean, he was crazy in lots of ways, but mostly he was crazy in the way that he broke boundaries to love everyone. Literally everyone. If you look at the pharisee’s reactions to some of the things Jesus did, you see how culturally out of the box Jesus was. He sat with people who were considered the scum of society, like Zacheus, and he loved them. He reached out to the sick who were shunned, continually, like the blind man whose sight he gave back, and the leper’s he healed, and the demon possessed who he freed. He called the children, who were supposed to be seen and not heard, to sit with him. He praised the poor for giving up what little they had. He sat with and TALKED TO women, something he was never supposed to do. He talked to and loved gentiles. Jesus was RADICAL. When the Bible said that God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only son, it meant the entire WORLD and everyone who was on it. And if you know much about history, you know that people have been doing crazy, boundary breaking stuff that others don’t agree with for all of time. That is not some modern phenomena.

Your love’s not passive, it’s never disengaged…

Jesus was accepting. Did he encourage people to continue to live in their sin? No of course not. He gave them the power to overcome it after they met him and experienced his love. After. Jesus did not turn away people. He didn’t say “well what you’re doing is sin so I can’t save you, it’s too terrible”. He said “come, pick up your cross, and follow me”. Jesus wants EVERYONE to know him. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess. EVERY. He doesn’t pick and choose who is allowed to follow him and who is not. Because he is a good God. He pursues everyone, all of the time, even those who’s hearts are so hard that they can’t feel him tugging. He died for us while we were sinners. All of us. Even those whose behaviors and ideas you or I disagree with. He still made them exactly who they are, and he loves them. To me, this gives me hope. This gives me hope that those people I know who don’t know him, who don’t want to know him, or who don’t care, still have a chance to meet the love of my life, Jesus. Because he pursues them! He pursues that family member that you’ve been praying for for YEARS. Don’t ever give up praying for people to meet him, because he wants to know them, and he won’t ever give up.

He doesn’t give his heart in pieces. 

He doesn’t give up on people. He doesn’t close himself off to those who don’t care, don’t know, or whose sin seems so great in our eyes. He doesn’t give up on anyone. He wants everyone to know him. If we truly want to reach the world, to tell everyone about Jesus and win others to Christ, then we as a church need to abandon our agenda of fixing people, just a little bit. Because he made all of us as his perfect children. He accepts us right where we are. Does he call us to live higher? Of course! But that’s his job, and he’s good at it. Our job is not to tell people what they are doing that will keep them from him, but to tell them he loves them, and invite them to love him. He doesn’t give his heart in pieces, so we shouldn’t try and make it seem like he does.

You don’t give your heart in pieces

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

-Romans 8:26

You don’t give your heart in pieces.

If we read Roman’s 8, we see two things. We first see that we, imperfect humans, have choices to make. We see two sides of a coin that determine the life that we have based off of what we choose. If we choose one side, the flesh side, we die. If we choose the other side, the Christ side, we live. Oftentimes Christians say things like “pick up your cross” or “die to your flesh” every day, but do we really know what that means? Or, we just don’t say them at all, and we convince ourselves and potentially those around us that it is good enough to say that we believe in Jesus and we love him, and leave it at that. He becomes just another addition to our busy lives. He’s like that self-help book collecting dust on your bookshelf; or that therapist that you saw when you went through that rough time and you keep their number in your phone just in case you ever need them again. He becomes a thing that we keep around in case we go through a rough patch, but for the most part we can take care of ourselves. But even just in this one chapter of Romans, let alone in the whole Bible, we see that it doesn’t really work that way. Paul tells the Romans that a life in the flesh leads to death. Those who are in the flesh are moving away from Christ. Now we all know that God is perfect, and he cannot be around us if we are not (AKA the existence of Jesus). So if we are moving away from Him we cannot be near him. Paul tells the Romans that those who live in the flesh are hostile to God. Hostile. BUT. If we choose Christ, we are given life. Life comes from God and we only need to choose him and his Spirit will dwell in us. And if his Spirit is in us we are co-heirs with Christ. We receive the adoption Spirit and become God’s children, part of his family. So there are two choices. But that’s the thing, there are only two. Paul doesn’t tell the Romans “well, you can kind of just draw near to God when you need him, but most of the time you can just do you”. He doesn’t give them a neutral option. You have to choose, and it seems as though if you are not actively choosing to follow him, then you are choosing to walk away. There is no neutral.

You don’t give your heart in pieces.

So what are we supposed to do with this information? Well I guess we have to choose. A lot of this blog will have me talking about problems or barriers that I see in my generation that keep people from Christ. One of the things that I feel often is a lack of commitment to Jesus. Jesus is seen as fun and a friend and a good addition to your life. But too often I see people who just want to keep Jesus in their backseat, rather than letting him be the driver. If take Paul at his word (which we should) then doing this is not neutral like we think it is, but rather is driving us away from Christ. This is a hard concept to get. Especially in a world that so values being a good person and “being the change you want to see in the world”. Not that you shouldn’t be a good person, but you should be a good person by accident because you are trying to be more like Jesus. We should be so entrenched in seeking him that all of the other “good” people things happen by accident. God doesn’t give himself to us in pieces. If he can see us exactly as we are, if he can accept us and fill us with his Spirit immediately after our hearts were considered hostile, if he can adopt us and call us co-heirs with Jesus without asking anything of us other than us to choose him, then how can we put him on a shelf to have if we need him, and continue living exactly how we are? Not blaming anyone here but something somewhere went wrong and we have begun to simplify a relationship with Jesus so much that we lost the commitment part that makes it a relationship.

You don’t give your heart in pieces.

God has made us co-heirs with Jesus, his perfect son, for no more payment than our love and devotion to him. The Spirit of God himself prays for us with groanings to deep for words. He knows that he don’t know what to pray for. He knows that we are imperfect and always will be. As just as he is, he is that much more loving. He does not give his heart in pieces. He goes all in, taking us in, and giving us all. But we have to choose. That’s the catch. Or really the obligation. We can’t just keep Jesus in our corner and only let him in when it suits us. We need to recognize our own neediness. We need to see that if we are not moving towards him we are moving away from him. And we have to choose. We can’t be moving away from him and expect him to still be there. Because he can’t be. He is perfect, and he can’t be in an unhealthy relationship. And a one sided relationship is unhealthy. He doesn’t give his heart in pieces. So neither can we.