Saturday, June 28, 2008

Better Than You?

The church I go to here has a chapter of Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step ministry developed out of Saddleback Church. I think I may have mentioned not preferring programmes--quite possibly because I am not very organised myself, so organised things make me feel skittish and boxed in, even if that's not truly what's happening.

But I have a lot of "room" for Celebrate Recovery, partly because I went through one of their step-studies one year and somehow (though I still can't explain how, exactly), God used it to break some patterns and stuff that needed to be broken in my life. And partly because the people in my church who are regular participants in the programme are some of the most genuine and grace-filled people I know.

One of the things I particularly appreciate about the programme and my friends in it is the acknowledgment that no one is better than anyone else--that we've all messed up pretty royally, and that we don't have any greater merit than someone else who may not know Jesus and who is maybe tangled up in the same sins we are working to get rid of. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and about how somehow I, and I think Christians in general, accidentally slide into thinking that I (or we) are better than people who don't know Jesus yet--even though it was miraculous grace that saved us, and not anything we did.

Last night a few of us went to hear a local Christian band play. They were actually really musically excellent, and the band members seemed genuinely humble and had a straightforward but appealing way of presenting their own faith in the Gospel. Unfortunately, their host's approach was not nearly as winsome--and, I don't think, as theologically accurate either. At the end of the gig, after the band had set up a good atmosphere for considering the claims of Christ, the host got up and began to rant. In his rant, which went on for a good fifteen minutes, I think, he bashed Muslims (of whom there were none present) and non-Christians in general (of whom there was at least one present). We sat cringing for most of the diatribe, until the guy said, "If you don't accept Jesus, you're stupid!" (Yes. Complete with exclamation mark.) It was at that point that I stood up and walked out of there.

The resulting impression was pretty terrible, although I don't think any of us blamed the band. I left imagining a little more clearly maybe, some of what people who are not Christians must go through when they're around Christians. There's absolutely a call to share Jesus with people--but when I feel like someone's putting themselves above me, I don't necessarily think of Jesus, and I don't know how I expect someone who hasn't gotten to know Him yet will get any kind of accurate impression of Him if they feel like I think I somehow have more merit as a person than they do.


Christianne said...

awesome, jenn. i love your perspective offered here. though i agree : that was a not-so-awesome experience. bleh.

so interesting that you mention celebrate recovery . . . i was just spending time with a friend yesterday whose life was changed through the celebrate recovery program several years ago. given my heart for hurting people, she gave me the first workbook to look through so that we can talk more about this approach next time we get together. so cool when two worlds collide like that in life, like it did here through your post and that conversation i had yesterday.

i'm so glad you're having a good experience with this recovery program at your church and meeting a lot of people who are grace-filled, loving, and humble.

Annelise said...

That makes me weep. I keep thinking of Grandpa, who people said over and over made them think of Jesus. Why aren't we more concerned about acting like Jesus and loving people into the kingdom rather than bashing them into the kingdom?

Jeff said...

Somebody-- maybe it was Marty-- said that the whole 12 step idea discovered lots of fundamentals of church small groups decades before churches were doing small groups.

I had this sudden feeling, as I was reading this post. It was a desire to want to say to people
"Stop. Just stop. Using evangelism as a cover to make your hate and shallowness acceptable isn't really working. There's plenty of other ways you can get your little agressions out. If you're not part of the solution in bringing people to Christ, you are part of the problem. If you're just paying lip service but are keeping people away from Him through your own poor witness, just do everybody a favor and go find something else to do."

Rhonda said...

oh no that's so sad.
I'm at a place in my life that if I'm gonna err it will be on the grace side. I'll let God do the "judging"...

Love this post.