I’m a Disciple and I’m Sorry

I am a disciple of Jesus. But before I get into the apology, I should state that I’ve always wanted to be one. Look at them. Biblical legends. Walking on water, tongues of fire, healing, communing with Jesus. And why shouldn’t they have been? He took every opportunity to teach them. He sought their company and even asked for their prayers.

I guess where it went wrong for me is that I kept reading after the Sunday School excerpt stopped. Before Peter could walk on the water, he had to question Jesus first. In an act of both doubt and testing, he asked, “if it is you, command me to walk on the water”. If? Jesus had already announced who it was. But lets cut him some slack, maybe a translation problem made it sound worse than it really was.

So he walks on water. Jesus commanded him, he stepped on faith (what an amazing testament to faith, by the way… it’s why he is a Bible icon after all), but just a few steps and the wind reminded Peter that his legs are meant for land. His faith exited stage left and his fears jumped into the driver seat. Then he sank into the water. But as he began to plummet, he still managed a final plea, “Lord, save me!”. More faith? No. Desperation. Faith kept him above the water, fear drug him into it. Submission to fear caused him to cry out.

I don’t think I’m taking things too harshly or literally here, after all, Jesus had to rebuke Peter for his lack of faith. Now, it goes on to say that after the wind died down (because Jesus made it), that they all believed. Here is the problem. Peter believed… until it got difficult. Then he returned to his pre-Jesus ways of living. How is that heroic?

But, it’s not just Peter. It’s all of them. I should have started with the worst of all… Judas. Do we even remember that he was a disciple? I think most of us just frown at the sound of his name and move on. What about doubting Thomas who demanded evidence over faith? The disciples in bulk tried to send a woman seeking healing away because she was “crying out to them”. When they couldn’t heal a demon possessed man, Jesus seemingly mocked their dismay with the reason of their failure… they did not have the faith that the healing required.

They argued over who was the greatest among them, they desired to know the forgiveness limit, they tried to stop the children from getting to Jesus, they denied Him, rebuked Him, questioned Him, abandoned Him, tried to stop others from working in His name… our heroes. Our Bible legends. In all of their mistakes and selfishness.

Through the power of Jesus, these men did amazing and miraculous things. Through the power of the tempter and great liar, they did horrible and despicable things. The same men. One great feat followed by a giant failure, later to be followed by an amazing miracle. Why? How?

  1. Jesus did not wait until the men were perfect before leaving them to their mission. They were still human when he left them. We are still human now.
  2. They were never expected to be perfect this side of heaven. Neither are we. They were forgiven and still maintained the company of the Savior even after massive regression to sin, fear, and doubt… we too are forgivable, and can maintain our relationship with Jesus even after we mess up.

I feel like I must apologize. I’ve made the same mistakes. As someone who claims Jesus in His life and has read and experienced such amazing things… I still have fear and doubt and struggles… just like the disciples. And in one way, I am incredible proud to be one:

  1. They never stopped following Him… even after He went to a place they could not physically follow. Neither should we.

So while we are human and imperfect, just like our predecessors, I pray we remember this truth… that while we are in the company of the Savior we can enjoy all of what makes him our Lord, including forgiveness. Go easy on yourself at times. There is only one Jesus… the rest of us are Peters and Judases. Flawed, yet in the Master’s presence.

I pray you find encouragement and also resolve to strive to learn. While they made many mistakes, each one was a learning opportunity. Don’t neglect the teaching moments.

Capital I and Understood You Make Jesus Sad

We do something subtle in the English language that I think speaks volumes to how we think of ourselves and treat others in respect.

The pronoun ‘I’ is the only pronoun capitalized. But this wasn’t the original intention. After very brief research, it seems the only reason it was changed was because i (lowercase) didn’t stand out enough when written. We have the word ‘a’ that remains lowercase, but i became I so it could be more easily noticed.

I might not have thought much more of that if we didn’t also do something peculiar with the word ‘you’. We completely take it away. Its called the understood you. So, I can say, ‘go to the market’ and the ‘you’ remains absent from print because everyone simply understands what I meant, so I shouldn’t have to say it.

Did you catch that? ‘I’ needs to stand out and be noticed, while ‘you’ needs to remain hidden. ‘I’ is the exception to the rule. And we know how to do that so very well.

I’m reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, who after being forgiven his massive debt rounded up those who owed him smaller debts and refused to forgive them. He was a capital I. He sought mercy when he couldn’t pay. It was all about him. And once the mercy was received he sent the lowercase ‘you’s’ to jail because it was still all about the important capital ‘I’. They owed him money.

He simply couldn’t understand how they could be in the same boat he was in. They had families and needs and sicknesses and circumstances and they cried for mercy just as he had. This is exactly what happens when I am capital and you are lowercase… or even worse, you aren’t even on the page with me.

It’s in how we write and talk, It’s in how we drive, how we treat each other online, it’s even seen in the churches… we just can’t stop admiring that tall, slender, capital ‘I’. There are so many scriptures to quote about how God intended for us to treat each other that I feel like just handing over the Bible should cover it. It’s everywhere. It’s in every book, in every timeline, in every parable. Both Old and New Testament, both before and after Jesus..

Even as Jesus hung from the cross he found a moment of compassion and made sure someone would take care of his mother after he finished dying.

We have spent so much time learning how unique and special we are, we forget that everyone else is too. And while there are some good lessons to be learned about how God created us as individuals and why… it kind of lets the air out of the balloon when we consider that if every single one of us is special, then the very thing we all have in common is our special-ness.

In other words…. none of us are special because we all have something special. Special is common among God’s creation. Instead of finding our servant and demanding what is ours, we are meant to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:10… and so, so many more)

What an amazing verse, that Romans 12:10… ” Outdo one another in showing honor ” Its a contest to come in last place. By our standards, we need to concede. We should yield. Words that don’t sound positive at all… lose, forfeit, surrender, sacrifice.

Ah, sacrifice. So many verses in the Bible talk about forgiving as we have been forgiven. Just like the unforgiving servant. A sacrifice has been made for us as well. Should we accept the sacrificial lamb and then refuse to sacrifice for others? I don’t believe that was the spirit of the gift.

I believe we are meant to deflate the I. It’s time to put you back on the page. The most significant man to walk the earth made himself insignificant with us in mind. He did it completely so we could have some significance. Our response is not to demean or belittle others.

There is an age old lie being whispered to your inner conscience. It was told to Jesus when he fasted for 40 days. I will make you a king. I will give it all to you. Others will serve you. You will never want again. Look at how big and shiny that ‘I’ is. Nothing can compare. You deserve this. Those insignificants can’t take that from you…

We are supposed to be fighting. It is a war. But the battle is to lift each other up. To outdo one another in showing honor. To lover greater, sacrifice more, and forgive first.


Photo by Anto Fredric on Unsplash

Greetings Sinner!

Good morning sinners!

Or, would you prefer to be addressed as something else? Something a little less blunt and honest? Lets face it, you most likely read that greeting and hung your head down knowing you have a checkered past that you regret, or you got angry because you are living in denial. We are all sinners. Some of us have just forgotten about that. Some of us don’t want to be reminded as it’s in our past.

There is a movement that I have noticed among Christians that seems to have lifted a passage or two out of our Bibles.

“Do not judge” Matthew 7:1

Whew! It’s still there. What a powerful and complete thought in three blunt and irrefutable words. Why not judge? Well we don’t even have to turn the page to find out why we shouldn’t judge. It’s the very next sentence. If you judge, you will be judged. And that verse is extremely threatening because each one of us deserves the cross for our sins. Some of us have dropped to our knees and made life sweeping changes at the thought of Jesus taking on our sins and redeeming us from our fate.

And for those of us that know Jesus personally, we get that verse. We get Paul. The Christian murderer who went on to proclaim Christ and who has become a saint in the eyes of many new believers. We understand the prostitute. The woman whose death-sentence was being carried out until Jesus gave permission for any perfect person around to finish her off. With no one able to meet that criteria she walked away a new woman with a simple command, “sin no more”. Why no more? Because Jesus knew what his cross meant for us. It was a dividing line that bridged a massive gap between yesterday and today. Yesterday we lived in sin and today we live in Jesus. The cross did that. His sacrifice for us did that. Jesus allows us to live a new life, innocent of our past.

So all we have left to tidy up this gift of salvation is our hypocrisy. Our ability to thank God for forgiving us from our past and then turning to our neighbor and condemning them for theirs.

And here is the really hard part. We all know people we would love to forgive right now. Or at least allow God to forgive them… but we know deep down that if we did that, we would have to allow forgiveness for others, and that would put them all on the same playing field. And, if we are brutally honest (which is the only kind of honesty) that makes us sick. We want to forgive one person while claiming another person is irredeemable.

“That all of them may be one”. John 17:21. Jesus’ final prayer to God before being executed. We are one in our sin. We are one in our forgiveness. Jesus wants us all to be one in Him. He knew then, that evil would tempt us towards division.

I’m not proud of my sin. I’m actually proud of very little in my life. But I find great pride in my future. I am happy and secure in God’s promises for me. And the thing I’ve noticed in my short life as a forgiven Christian, is that I’m not looking at the sins of others, when I’m looking at God. I’m not judging others, when I’m trying to improve my own life.

I’m not much on challenging others or calling people out. But I thought this verse was particularly helpful to me today. I can imagine the rebuttals, and the exceptions, and the what-ifs being hurled directly, indirectly, or even under the reader’s breath. But this verse speaks for itself. Lets try it out:

But….

Do not judge.

You are forgetting…

Do not judge.

How about…

Do not judge.

But…

Do not judge.

This person…

Do not judge.

The Bible also says…

Do not judge.

Aren’t you judging us right now?

Do not judge (besides, it’s a loving reminder :p)

I like it when it’s simple. Jesus knew the minds of people. If only one person stood before the prostitute with rock in hand, ready to stone her to death for her sin, and Jesus gave them a chance to admit sin in their own lives… they could have easily justified throwing with full force. Our minds are tricky that way. We can rationalize a lot of things. But this was a community of believers. They looked around at each other and their minds began to fact check. That guy knew me when I was a teenager, I can’t throw this in front of him. She saw me after prom, I can’t throw in front of her. All alone we can summarize a quaint, perfect, existence for ourselves… until we remember we have a past. And then we catch a glimpse of those we have wronged ready to cast blame at another.

As a community of believers, we have strength in sobering up to our true pasts and current selves. As one, the one unit that Jesus prayed we would be, we can’t honestly cast stones at each other. It’s far too easy to judge. The enemy uses it as a sucker’s game to lure us in and we just keep dropping money until, before we know it, we are broke. The high road is to follow the scripture. “Do not judge”. Period. Amount of anger does not matter. Level of depravity does not matter. Humiliation suffered does not matter. There isn’t an asterisk in the ancient manuscript that points us to all of the exceptions where it’s OK to judge. Its simply never allowed. Instead, we have bigger fish to fry. We have sin in our own lives that needs forgiveness. We have enemies to pray for, possibly the very ones we are tempted to judge. We have service to provide. We have a world that desperately needs to see the love of Jesus in each of our hearts.

A judgmental heart is accompanied by an idle mind. One that has the time and energy to put towards work against the will of God. Harsh? Perhaps. But let’s be honest, we’re all sinners. And we need each other focused on God and leaning on each other in the spirit of love. We need each other judgement free, so that we can confess to each other, work with each other, love one another, and be one with each other.

Let me try one final analogy. Eternity isn’t the time where we start learning to get along. I would go so far as to say that it will be a required trait to have mastered BEFORE we leave this side of life.