For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost – Luke
This week, a man who comes to our Discovery Group texted me, “I’ve lost my way.” An alcoholic and addict, his communication to me varies between rage to complete breakdown. For now at least, he is lost.
Today, he invited me to his AA meeting; I went along, but he didn’t show. I must admit, sitting through an AA meeting I couldn’t help but feel we had missed the mark as church. It was quite an experience. Haphazardly seated in a circle, some 60-odd people shared in an orderly way, their journey through alcoholism to sanity. There was no clear leader, only a moderator who quickly handed the group over to others. Doctors or drop-outs, it was impossible to tell as our differences were left behind at the door.
The stories were punchy and powerful and there was a gritty reality with honesty, truthfulness. No one was under any illusion as to their status, that they hadn’t ‘stuffed it up’. As with all sin, along the way there had been lots of suffering both for themselves and those close to them. One man in particular, told of punching holes in the wall, punching his wife, abusing his two girls and eventually – because his wife told him he ‘had problems,’ had an affair with another person in rehab and posted it publicly. His story was so raw, I couldn’t tell whether this had happened last week, last year or a decade ago. He knew and readily admitted that he had a daily choice to make; he could have alcohol, or everything else. Twelve years ago and each day since, he chose everything else. Daily repentance, turning from that which destroys us.
God was no bystander in the events, and conversation was peppered with stories of prayer, hope and being very grateful to God. Everyone knew salvation from where they had been and some at least, had found Christ. My friend asked whether Jesus would fit more comfortably into an environment such as this, rather than our idea of ‘church’. Coming away, I pondered that and wondered about our dull acceptance of the definition of church.
Reading through the chronological story of the early New Testament church, and thinking of this meeting today, I am acutely aware that our current Christian culture is so very different compared to that era. Firstly, I wonder if we truly understand how alien and foreign our culture is to an outside world. Even our language makes no sense to the lay person, as we struggle to explain our faith in a relevant way. Our world is one of systems, theology, methodology as we use words few understand; even the word ‘Christian’ today, has strong connotations to most non-believers.
Then, it seems we no longer connect with those who are truly broken; those who had lost their way, came to Christ most willingly. Our friends, other believers, the circles we mix in generally seem to have it altogether and less willing to bare their soul. Indeed, most would be hostile to the Gospel, being affronted by the suggestion they are in need. Who needs Jesus, when you have all this – do we even?
The replacement in many believer’s lives, of Jesus for a system or institution has caused us to be largely irrelevant to the world. Somehow, we need to break down the barriers to reach this world for Christ, and I would suggest the barriers are often more on our side. We do that by laying aside our Christian culture, and presenting Jesus as one who genuinely loves us, and can truly set us free.
We must allow the Holy Spirit to flow daily through our lives – Christ within us literally, such that we can be relevant in both manner and speech to those who are seeking answers to life. Then, let our hearts be sensitive to those around us who are broken and lost as we look for an opportunity to share. Sitting through AA made me realise one thing, these people are our neighbours, work colleagues or community friends. We just wouldn’t know it.
Let us examine before Christ, those aspects of our faith that aren’t relevant to a world in need, and courageously discard them. Inevitably, I suspect, we will be left with little other than the One himself.
Incidentally, pray for my friend – Rob is his name; I sincerely believe Jesus wants to touch his life in spite of his wandering off from time to time.