“But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me. For you are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)These two verses seem so diametrically opposite of each other, and for me they have never existed in the same mind set, Bible study, or discussion. But, last night they collided in such a concrete way, that my mind was forever changed in repentance and sorrow.
I have a friend who has fallen on some hard times, partly because of some bad choices, and partly due to some unfortunate circumstances, but, whatever the case, they were in need of some help moving because of financial hardship. They were having to move from their duplex into assisted housing or what most people call the projects. My friend was taking it very hard, crying often and just lamenting the entire situation, very reluctant to uproot everything and make choices between what they have room for and what must be disposed of or given away. My sons, a good friend, and I went to help.
I would like to say that when I got there I had the best attitude, but I didn’t. On our way over my son had left his unicycle on the bumper of my car (not sure how that even seemed like a good idea), and I ran it over. The dragging noise and the thump startled me, and I jumped out to see what it was, and I wasn’t the most gracious as I tossed the unicycle about 15 feet, yelling my sons name. Like a top, I was wound up, and when we arrived to begin to load stuff up, let’s just say everything wasn’t packed up, and leave it at that. Under breath I was muttering incomprehensible babblings of a Looney Tune.
So, as we were loading up the first load, my friend, who was moving, was frantically spouting out typical stereotypes that most people have about people who live in assisted living, and you could just see the dread on their face. My oldest son began to speak truth to my friend, and try to dispel the incorrect stereotypes (I was so proud of him). He assured them that we even knew people living there who attend church with us. As they spoke, I was thinking how different my mindset was, from that of my friends, and how I was thankful that I wasn’t like them.
We took the first load over, and unloaded everything, and as I was coming down the stairs, I saw a young, child friend of mine from church. I called her name, and when she saw me she yelled my name and came running over to see me. I was judging my friend in my mind “What is wrong with them? Can’t they see they’re just people too?” As that thought entered my mind, another younger child, maybe three, saw me hug my friend, and he stretched up his arms to me. I paused, because he was filthy from head to toe, like he had been outside all day long. He was drenched in sweat and covered in dirt. I hesitated for a second, but picked him up, and as soon as my hands grasped him under his slimy little armpits, it was like an atom bomb went off in my heart. “Your heart is no different than your friends. You’re not mindful of the things of God either. I intentionally left my palace, my home, and put on your filth so that I could be with you, and relate to you, and know your hurts and your temptations and your disappointment, and to show you a better way. Do you really want to be like me?” It was all I could do to hold back my tears, as I pulled that little boy so close and just held him.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Dave Wiley, Outreach Pastor at Brainerd Baptist in Chattanooga said something to me once, and in that moment it made more sense than ever. “People often call certain activities “missions” that at the heart are just volunteering, and there is nothing wrong with that, volunteers are a good thing. But, a volunteer is someone who has the idea that they want to rescue people out of their circumstances, but a missionary dwells with them, helping them learn a better way that they can then replicate in their environment to reach others, and becomes their friend.” Jesus was a missionary, not a volunteer. For 33 years of his life, he walked with us and taught us and loved us and did not despise us and saved us. His ministry had limited resources (Mark 6:37), so God provided for the masses, he wasn’t recognized by the Sanhedrin and had followed no Rabbi, but his teaching was more authoritative, and he invested the last years of his life in 12 guys who would in turn do the same.
I have seen Christians stand in unity and oppose many things, but the question I want to ask us all, myself included, will we stand against ourselves if we are what is standing in the way of God? Are we a stumbling block to Him? Do we really want to be like Jesus? If we do, we will have to leave the comfort of our buildings and inhabit the world around us. I think it is time.