Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Revolutionary Rules for Renegades (Part 2)

Read yesterday's post here before you read this.

So I’m trying to wrap my mind around this idea of ‘following’ God’s directives even when they don’t seem to make any sense whatsoever. In my recent life, I’ve wrestled with the idea of significance, having gone from a resource rich environment to planting a church that struggled early on. Through the process though, I’ve developed this idea that, in order to be successful I must be willing to be labile. While I’m adapting and changing, my purpose is becoming clearer. Like the lepers in Luke 17, I’ve often felt like I’m relegated to the fringes of culture (in the church world); trying to belong, trying to find my place, while all the while wanting to do something meaningful and significant.

In our story, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and just happened to be traveling on the border between Samaria and Galilee. These lepers found themselves at the same intersection at this most pivotal season of their lives. Nothing about the encounter was chance, though it may seem like it. But God never leaves the fulfillment of His purpose up to chance. As soon as they saw Jesus, they called out to Him and He responded with a directive, which they followed without hesitation (at least that’s the impression we get when we read the story). While they may have followed his directives without hesitation, I’m certain that they didn’t do it without wondering what exactly the point was. Again, I want to point out that their healing didn’t happen when they cried out to Jesus nor when He gave them a directive. It happened while they were on the way to show themselves to the priests in obedience to Jesus’ instructions. There have been countless days since we ‘birthed’ The Well that I’ve wanted to quit and find something less painful and less demanding to do. On my worst days, the isolation may well feel somewhat similar to what a leper might have felt, knowing that he was all alone and despised as insignificant and worthless to the larger society.

Those days provoke invidious reminders of the blissful innocence of a regular job in which I was judged only based on my performance during working hours as opposed to on every waking moment of my life. But then they were healed! I often wonder if this might be the day when I encounter Jesus along my intersection, and find answers to my myriad questions as I try to do what I believe He’s called me to do. You see, I know that Jesus loves the leper, the outsider, and the ones on the fringes of society who seem to be without hope. Amazingly, greater proof of this fact is found in what happens after they are cleansed. When I read the story, I’m most fascinated by the events following their healing. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17: 15-16) Wow! The one who was an even bigger outsider than the others came back and thanked Jesus. He was not only a leper; he was a ‘Samaritan leper’. Watch what happened next. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17: 17-19)

What? Weren’t they made “well” on their way to see the priests? Apparently they were cleansed, but not made well. Whatever the difference between those two conditions may be, we know it’s significant enough that the Bible points out that ten lepers were cleansed but only one was made well because of his attitude of gratitude. I want to be thankful for all that Jesus has done and continues to do in and through me, even on my seemingly insignificant days when all I can feel is sorry for myself. I want to be thankful so that at my intersection, I’m not simply cleansed but also made well.