The Christian life is unavoidably messy and often in tension. This is especially true if you are in a grace-based environment. Life may be “easier” navigating the black and white world of legalism, with clearly defined dos and don’ts, but not nearly as Christ-dependent or as satisfying. I believe this will increasingly be true for at least two reasons. We exist within a culture that has had a diminishing exposure to an authentic and clearly biblical expression of the gospel. A gospel which demonstrates God’s love and grace, expressed without compromising grace or truth in its delivery. We exist in a culture that is dangerously self-reliant and self-satisfied, content with what we are able to make of life by ourselves and desperate for very little. God, if there is one, is not on our radar and life is normally not so bad that we urgently seek a Rescuer.
If we are to succeed in reaching people with God’s message of salvation, it will largely be done through face to face relationships. That’s not to say “non-believers” will not individually attend a church service or larger rally, but the chances of them participating in either without someone first establishing a personal rapport with them is increasingly unlikely. It’s almost like we are being driven to accept and rely upon the command of Christ to “go and make disciples.” (Matt. 28:19) I believe the imperative “go” is meant for everyone who claims Christ for their salvation.
The days of “door knocking” evangelism and street corner “preaching” are not warmly received by the masses. Today they are seen as an intrusion, and, in the case of street preaching, the condemnation and judgment that comes with the package is almost entirely without context. It just sounds mean. It makes God appear mean. And He surely is not.
Jesus’ invitation to follow him is no different today than it was to the earliest fishermen/disciples and the crowds he eventually drew. One didn’t have to understand it all at once. One didn’t have to believe everything at first. One didn’t have to tune up their behavior to “acceptable” standards to follow Jesus. Time with Jesus, exposure to Him, was the ingredient that produced the desirable changes from the inside out. A quick look at the inner circle of 12 shows them in doubt and disarray until after Jesus made good on his promise to rise from the dead. That’s pretty much the clincher for us today too, isn’t it?
Back to the concept of “messy” for just a moment. Jesus interaction with the Samaritan “woman at the well” in John 4 is a beautiful illustration of grace successfully trumping legalism in order to capture a heart for God. Jesus is pure genius in relating to this woman. Cultural norms would have insisted Jesus have nothing to do with her. In helping her unpack her life, which was both wretched and desperate, we learn she previously had 5 husbands and was now living with a man outside of marriage. No details are mentioned as to how all this came to be, but it was not good. Jesus began by indebting himself to her and asked for a drink of water. Their discussion, which Jesus artfully navigated, could have simply ended with her admission of her status quo. But it didn’t.
The disciples didn’t like the scene, much like a church flavored by legalism. But the woman left Jesus believing in Him and leading many from her town to find faith in Jesus. She had found the Savior and began to follow. Was Jesus wrong leaving her at Sychar and not insisting she either leave her boyfriend or marry him? Or did Jesus trust that following Him would bring life change? We experience similar “messiness” in the church today. Think About It.