Its Sunday, and the Every Mans Battle workshop ended just a few hours ago. One of the guys said before he left:
“Today I choose to live as a son, no longer in the shame of my addiction but in the freedom of what Jesus has done for me.”
His perception of himself shifted this weekend. He arrived defining himself as the sum total of his bad choices. He left acknowledging that he has done a bunch of really bad things, yet that’s not who he is. Or better said; Whose he is. He was able to see that the very fact that he had done so many bad things was indicative of his need for a savior. And not just to remove guilt, but to confirm belonging. He belongs to Jesus. In Christ we find the truth that we are dearly loved and infinitely valuable.
Does all this mean he isn’t responsible for the pain he’s caused? No. Does it guarantee he’ll never do it again? No. Does it mean his marriage will be restored? Not necessarily.
But it does mean that he can stop hating himself. It does mean he can stop trying to perform his was into a deeper relationship with Jesus. And the byproduct of those 2 things alone often result in less acting out. The downward spiral is coming screeching to a halt and a new, redemptive ripple effect is beginning.
Jesus responded, “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man—one from the Twelve!—was even then getting ready to betray him.
Judas was handpicked by Jesus to be a follower. We don’t know when he made the fateful decision to betray his friend and leader. All we know is that he did, and became a glaring example of how to blow up our lives. So often the Scriptures about Judas are the proof text for betrayal, for deceit and for back-stabbing. But within the story is also an incredible example of mercy and grace. Think about it; Jesus knew Judas would betray him, BUT HE HANDPICKED HIM ANYWAY!
Jesus called him a “devil” in this passage; the original, Greek meaning of the word was ‘to oppose the cause of God’.
So let’s get this straight; Jesus knew Judas would betray him and that he was opposed to the cause of God the Father. Yet Jesus intentionally chose into a relationship with Judas.
If Jesus had mercy on and a relationship with the guy who would ultimately get him killed, don’t you think he could have mercy on us?
You need to know that you’ve been handpicked. You’ve been selected based on no merit of your own. Loved in spite of your bad behavior. Graced in spite of some future sin. Jesus knows our past, present and future, the Father forgives it, and we are free to live in light of Grace.
We are handpicked to be in a relationship with Him!
I was talking with a client about God and Christianity recently and, while describing his journey, he used this analogy:
“Believing in and trusting God is like playing one of those crane games at the arcade. The game is rigged against you. Its nearly impossible to get the stuffed animal out. Ever so often, you’ll get really close; close enough to keep you playing. But you’d be better off spending your time and money doing something else rather than wondering and hoping if you’ll ever get the prize.”
I can totally relate. It seems like sometimes God shows up in profound ways and renews hope and keeps me interested in Him. I get the prize. Then other times it feels like I’m steering the silly crane around, picking up stuffed animals that end up falling out of its grip, ultimately wasting time and quarters. I struggle with this, and I’ve never even been burned by church.
But my client has been. And so have many others. Being burned only serves to compound the confusion and frustration, making Christianity feel more rigged.
This really isn’t a ‘how to get past it’ post. It’s an ‘I’m sorry your faith journey has felt like an arcade’ post.
I apologize on behalf of the Church if you’ve been burned. I’m sorry that perhaps in the most difficult circumstances of your life it has felt like you couldn’t put enough quarters in the God machine to get him to react. I have no explanation for it. I don’t know why God shows up sometimes and seems a million miles away at others.
The good news is that being able to admit it feels rigged is a step in the right direction. Being able to confess that you feel gamed and even ripped off by God, the church and/or Christianity is a good place to start. Maybe it’s time to quit plugging quarters in the machine and hoping to get a prize. Instead it might be more fruitful, for a while, to simply do life with people that love you and are authentic about their own journey.