Friday, June 20, 2008

Messiah Complex

The other confusing thing about a "missional" bent is that it really does look like arrogance at some point. I already blogged a little about how I don't think it ultimately is arrogance to say, effectively, "I have Good News for you that you can't live without" (well, it might be arrogant to say it that way), although I definitely see how it can look like it is.

If there is a God, and He's the God portrayed in the Bible, particularly through Jesus, then the Good News surrounding that comes from Him, not from any of His so-called representatives, and so there's not a lot to do with arrogance there.

It's the so-called representatives part that seems a little off. I mean, I can say that I used to pray for movie-stars after movies when I was a kid, so in some sense I'm "wired" to pray for and care about whether or not people have a relationship with God through Jesus. And it's sort of hypocritical to say I care about something if I'm not going to try to do something about it, I suppose. But at some point I have to wrestle with the question about why I think I'm the one God wants to use to help other people get to that point. Particularly when I haven't seen Him actually do it very often, to my knowledge.

It might be a better question than "Where or to whom am I called?" More like "Am I called?" Who do I think I am? Seriously. I have lots of questions in my faith, and not a lot of answers, and the answers I feel like I have don't translate very well into dialogue with people who are disinclined to agree with me on this to begin with. Besides, my attitude is very often not "the same as that of Christ Jesus," and so I'm not sure how excellent my witness-by-example really is.

I would like to assert here in all honesty that this question did not arise from an outside source; I've been mulling it over a little (and avoiding it a lot) for quite some time now. What kind of messed up Messiah complex did it take to make me think I myself had something to offer the people of East London--or does it take to make me think that somehow the Milk Guy or the people of my city in general need me in their lives to show them that Jesus loves them?

I really do think sometimes this ends up being more about me than about Him--or even about the other people I care about.

On the other hand, one time, within my first few months in London, I messed up. (I don't mean I only messed up once in London. I wish! I'm just talking about this one time.) I honestly don't even remember all the specifics, but I know that I ended up looking somewhat hypocritical and I was keenly aware of how that was, in that moment, going to make all my nice words about Jesus up to that point, sound. I walked home that night feeling all self-flagellating and I remember articulating in my head the words, "I don't deserve to be a missionary!"

And suddenly it was like my brain stopped and Someone else thought into it, "Bingo!" Or "You sure don't!" Or, "Well, duh!" Or, "Seriously? Is that why you thought you were here?" Something like one or a whole bunch of those. And then the thought went on to assure me that, regardless of my inherent merit or ability to do the job, He was the one who had brought me there, and I just needed to keep going.

Even saying that sounds a little arrogant. It's a weird position, this one that Jesus puts us in. As soon as I'm humble enough to go there, I notice . . . and then I'm not humble anymore.

So strange.

Can I get, um, a witness?


chris said...

The other confusing thing about a "missional" bent is that it really does look like arrogance at some point.

At which point you need to start thinking about 'I'm more wicked than I dared believe' :-)

Joking - slightly

Barry Pike said...

A “messiah complex,” by definition, is indicative of a person who believes that they themselves manifest the capabilities of effecting the spiritual salvation of another person. It is a psychotic condition and, regardless of how this topic of personal evangelism makes you feel, it is not what you are describing. And it’s abundantly clear that you don’t have it.

Whereas a person with the messiah complex imagines that he may take for his own the divine royal and priestly mantle reserved for Christ alone, you, on the other hand, are really describing the threadbare, ill-fitting, chafing, and uncomfortable garments worn by His servants.

At best, you have a “disciple complex,” which, if I may extrapolate freely from scripture, means simply that you are a human being, chosen by God as His own, and that you have submitted to being a part of whatever plan or purpose He intends for you. And even your submission, whether willing or uneasy, is not accomplished without the effort of Him who knows you better than you know yourself and whose love persists, in spite of your otherwise fatal flaws, throughout eternity.

I don’t think any of us get to know how effective our Christian witness is. It’s not any of our business, really, if you think about it. It is not our job to save, to condemn, to judge, or to keep score. It’s up to us to keep on keeping on until it is time for us to lay down. Personally, I think that is enough and quite likely all of which we are really capable.

Annelise said...

Really appreciated Barry's insightful comment!

Christianne said...

wow. barry's response was amazing. thank you for sharing that.

Jenn said...

Chris--I myself, or "you" generally? ;) Oh indeed. I actually do think this, on a semi-regular basis.

Barry--everyone else seems to agree: what you said was incredible. You might, I think, consider writing a book about it or something . . .

Rhonda said...

great thoughts...I'm in the same boat with ya.
I really go back and forth.
I'm reading a "missionary devotional" every morning and it comes across more than not how much people (we Christ followers) think others salvation depends on us.
To me, that just seems way funny.
But, Somehow God uses us and that just seems way funny too. ;)

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Missional has become one of the newer buzz words in the church. I hear it everywhere. Even in my little church.