That was a question posed to our congregation a couple of Sundays ago, via a message preached by my Dad. In short, Dad challenged us to dismantle our religious barriers and take the gospel to those that religion would disqualify, those that don’t fit our “churchy mold”, those that we wouldn’t want other churchfolk to see us hanging with…you get the idea, don’t you?
I was very convicted by this message to say the least.
I’ve got a great religious pedigree. I was raised in the church, got saved at age 12, and I’m a preacher’s kid…needless to say, I’m pretty well churched. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but unfortunately I allowed my “churchiness” to get in the way at times of a geniune relationship with Jesus.
For many years after I was saved, I was a full-blown Pharisee…and didn’t even know it. I put so much stock on how pious and holy I appeared to other people, and I didn’t fully grasp the fact that I can look awesome to people and raggedy to God.
Thankfully, God has really opened my eyes to this in recent years…painfully at times, but it’s been well worth it. And of course He’s still working on me, but I thank Him for the growth that I’m seeing. A recent experience I had was proof of this for me.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to lunch by some of my coworkers. Not really a big deal…but remember my religious pedigree? Here are some of the thoughts that immediately flashed thru my religious mind:
“The restaurant has ‘ale house’ in the name, and it has a bar. I just got ordained as an Elder…what if people I know see me there?”
“There are 4 of us – 2 guys and 2 girls…what if someone sees me and thinks I’m cheating on my wife or something?”
“I just don’t want my good to be ‘evil spoken of’…”
I was all set to decline the invitation, but then felt an urge to go that I didn’t fully understand at first.
Now, here I am: a former Pharisee and a newly ordained Elder…in an ale house…with 3 coworkers who are sipping on drinks that are not “virgin” at all. And I’m here because GOD told me to be?!!
Eventually, though, I began to relax…not because of any drink (FYI, I had water), but because the Holy Spirit began to reveal why He had told me to go. The conversation started with small talk, but then took an interesting shift to some of the things that we all were going thru at the moment.
I was able to minister to my coworkers in an ale house, while they were sipping on drinks, simply by being relatable and having a listening ear. One of them even commented and said, “Wayne, you should be a preacher”, to which I sheepishly replied, “Actually, I am”. They were pleasantly surprised by this, and each of them pointed out that they knew something was different about me, but just couldn’t put their fingers on what it was.
What is my point in saying all of this? Well, if we claim to have any relationship with Jesus, then we have to be willing to get as uncomfortable as He got to reach those that religion has shunned.
How far did Jesus go?
I could spend the whole day breaking that down, but just know this: He went infinitely farther than any of us could ever imagine.
I think the real question is…how far will you go?