I just heard a song today from a Christian artist and the lyrics go...
I got so much to say but not enough space to say it all
I hope you learn from my mistakes, I hope you stand and never fall
But that's not realistic, a good man fails at least 7 times
And if you never messed up you can never be qualified
This got me because I used to struggle with this concept. And sometimes I find myself in situations where I feel unqualified to talk about or deal with issues. Take last Saturday for example...
A guy, who came by the church earlier in the week, showed up at my parents' doorstep. He had this story about how he, his wife and his child were about to be put out of a motel that they were staying in. When he showed up to the doorstep, he smelled like a walking 12 pack of beer. He smelled that way when he came to the church the first time too. But given the situation that my little family is in, I could really really feel where he was coming from. I told him that I would follow him to the motel so that I could meet his family and pay what he needed so that he wouldn't get kicked out. Sure enough, everything was as he had said. He was staying at one of those motels that are frequently used for one night stands, prostitution and other stuff. (I won't get into how "obvious" it was but just take my word for it.) I really felt for the guy. At least with our hard times, we could count on friends and family.
After I verified his story, went into the room where he was staying, & met his wife and child (who was 12 I think), I asked to speak to him outside. We walked into the courtyard of the motel and I began to talk to him. I reassured him that I could somewhat feel where were he was coming from and that I would help him to stay in his motel for another night. He was cool with that. He even asked me for an extra $5 to put in his gas tank (offering me to show proof that he really was on E.) Then I told him, "Man, I'm gonna be honest and real. When you showed up to the doorstep, no one could deny the fact that you smelled like alcohol. It was the same way when you showed up at the church." After I said that, he was still looking at me in the eyes but he was doing that blink that people do when conversations get uncomfortable. I told him, "I'm not here to judge you because I know that when times get hard, we go to different things." I was sincere because I know that I do that too at times. Mine are different things. One of his things was alcohol. But he was already upset and in defense mode.
He said, "Listen brother I understand where you're coming from but my wife can tell you that is not the case. And my wife can attest to that." I stood there listening as he began to rant. "I'm not gonna lie to you brother. Yeah I've had a few beers. And I had some the day I went to visit you. But I'm trying to keep from doing something illegal. I spent 15 years in bro. I don't wanna ask for money. I would rather rob a bank." He went on to explain his street story and that his godly wife talked him out of robbing a bank. Then he said, "I don't know about you. You probably grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth or something. I'm from the streets bro. I could go out get money but I want to do it legally for my family. I've already been to bible school. I was a minister in my church."
I'm not gonna lie. In the back of my mind, I did start to think that I couldn't tell him anything. He's seen both sides of the spectrum. But that thought was a lie.
Part of the lyrics above, although on a "Christian" album, are lies. In the context of the song, the artist is basically saying, "Look, I hope you never fall but that's unrealistic. In fact you HAVE to fall in order to be qualified (to speak to a situation)."
So when a minister like me who has never smoked, never drank a drop of alcohol, and never had sex before marriage hears this line...it can make me think thoughts like, "What am I doing trying to help these people? I will never fully understand them. I'll never get it." Problem, though. If I followed this thought process and disqualified myself from ministering to people, I would definitely have to disqualify Jesus too.
So briefly, how DOES Jesus relate to us? He relates to the human experience. Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin". In other words, He was tempted sexually. He was tempted to go to the local palm reader to figure out if He was really the Christ. He was tempted to get drunk at a party and go crazy because He had a hard week. The beauty of Jesus is that he was everything like us and nothing like us the same time. And let me take it further. The glory of Jesus has never been in His human frailty, but in His holiness (His state of being set apart). The fact that He was willing to walk around here on earth with us when we clearly didn't deserve to be on the same planet as Him was...attractive. It also gave us hope in our walk with God. So I'm wondering, "Why am I sometimes ashamed of my personal holiness?" "Why do I feel like my personal holiness disqualifies me from ministering to certain people?" "Why do I feel like I need to share my failures instead of my triumphs?"
I explained to that man that I've never been in his shoes. But I did tell him that if he ever has to choose between a beer or his family getting what they need, then he needs to choose his family. Again, I know that feeling. When you're so down deep in a financial hole and you are looking for the big fix, you can think that the little things like the cost of an occasional Redbox rental or buying cheap food & drinks (and in his case beer) isn't going to make a difference in your situation. But my empathy towards him and his situation will never change the truth. And although it is a great connector, empathy alone never changes anybody. In life & ministry, I've learned that we as people tend to love empathy as long as there is no truth attached to it. Truth is the standard that makes us see that we fall short. Is the standard high. Absolutely! Did Jesus meet that standard for us? Absolutely! Are we supposed to walk as Jesus walked? Absolutely. We strive to be like Jesus. And even though the standard is high, failure to meet it will never be cool and the new normal.
Thanks for reading!
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