“Messy Spirituality” – pgs. 90-91
Messy RealityOne look at the book of Corinthians and it’s clear the Christian life doesn’t take place in the rarefied air of perfection. Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth to help them figure out what Christianity means in the everydayness of life. Paul gives us spectacular glimpses of Jesus while trying to deal with the messes which were occurring in the church: incestuous affairs, vicious lawsuits, divorce and separation, idol worship, overinflated egos, doctrinal infighting, jealousy, sexual promiscuity, and getting drunk during communion! And that was just one small congregation! Spiritual growth thrives in the midst of our problems, not in their absence. Spiritual growth occurs in the trenches of life, not in the classroom.
We don’t grow while studying the definition of consistency; we grow when we try to be consistent in an inconsistent world. We can talk about love all we want, but loving those who are unlovely is how we learn about love. Jesus gave Peter some excellent teaching about betrayal and arrogance, but Peter didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about until he actually betrayed Jesus. Peter’s failure was the primary cause of his understanding and maturity.
So do we encourage people to fail so they can grow? No, we encourage people to grow, which means they will fail. We encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus but we are not paranoid about failure. Paul himself said, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that i have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
I’m always fascinated by those stories of people who accept Christ in their lives one day and whatever nefarious ill in their life is gone that instant. Drug users that go cold turkey; abusive husbands that become instantly loving; or reckless personalities that suddenly become stable. I guess that fascination is due to the fact that I simply don’t recognize it and find it next to impossible to relate to. I recall a lesson from one of Dr. Paul’s sermons about a friend who swore and treated the people around him abusively … all while being a Christian. The path to putting that behind him was a long journey of many years. The story may be a bit less fascinating, but I suspect it’s what most of us are accustomed to: continual, steady, sometimes even negligible growth at an given point in time.