I long for the attainable challenge of Jesus. Put the other way, I’m tired of being challenged, by which I refer not to the challenge of the gospel or the challenge of Jesus, but to the challenge of leaders who seem to continually push for greater levels of sanctification. Ever unattainable, this leaves one straining for an unreachable goal and feeling cast down for falling short. To elaborate, this causes a situation in which a believer perpetually feels or is actually considered “not quite good enough” to engage in ministry. I long for the challenges which God give the grace to attain, rather than the challenges of men which one strives fruitlessly to attain.
So quoth I about a week ago in this post, which I recommend reading if you haven’t already. This was point number three of nine, and I will continue to elaborate on them one after another as I continue to process what they all mean.
This longing sets up a stark contrast between what Jesus expects of us and what people come to expect of us… and here we discover something rather striking. For a guy with a divine nature so holy that he cannot tolerate sin in his presence, Jesus is a pretty gracious and accepting person. On the other hand, some of his chief spokespersons are not.
I have been in church contexts where the leaders or pastors presumed to know what my problem was and how to fix it. If I would just do this or do that or be more something-else, then God would be able to bless me more and I would be able to ‘advance’ in ministry or some such thing. My sentiments in this regard are akin to my earlier comments on intensity. Basically, I think that the church tends toward a performance-based Godlife rather than a relational one, which is just wrong… it leads to a kind of striving (works) in order to attain relationship (grace). It’s a non sequitur but we keep pushing it anyway.
When we trust first to a pastor or leader to guide us in our path to sanctification, we will miss the mark and end up working on our own steam to force change in our lives. On the other hand, if we will submit first to God in this path, he will lead us in manageable steps toward lasting change. Not that there won’t be difficult steps, but the grace is by definition present for each of these. People being people will always press you for some change that they want to see in you, whether or not that’s foremost on God’s mind at the time.
Funny how Jesus did not say, “My undershepherds know my voice, and they know their sheep who follow them as they follow me.” Seems to me he said something more like, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” How is is that the church tends toward adding an undershepherd as a mediator between The Good Shepherd and his sheep? Remember, we have “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There are many in the evangelical church who genuinely believe that church leaders hear from God better than laypeople do. Are we really still fighting the same battle as that of Luther, Calvin, and The Reformers? I wonder what the going rate is today for an indulgence, anyway?
No, I long to know what Jesus asks of me, to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and to follow him alone… not someone else’s interpretation of what God wants of me. I long to do this with others of like mind, who themselves are also seeking Jesus directly. This longing, then, is for a context in which leaders or journeymates are slow to speak and quick to listen, who seek God’s heart and his counsel before they offer theirs. What comes then is counsel from a learner, a peer, and not from someone who can quickly spout a formula for you to follow in order to get where they are.