It’s raining men

I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived in eastern Montana.  We had our first warm spring rain today.  It was glorious!  The kids played tag in the rain, and Anabella, our tough, quirky 8 yo stood under the rain spout to “take a shower”.  Just as the clouds burst open, Josiah ran inside excited and breathless.  “Mom, come quick!  It’s raining men.  It’s raining men, hallelujah, it’s raining men!”  And off he ran outside to enjoy his dirt piles that were quickly becoming mud mounds.

You might wonder how a 5 yo boy can come up with the words to an 80’s disco hit song, unless you knew we have the popular “Just Dance 2” Wii game.  Yes, kids really are listening to those song lyrics, and ever since we started dancing along with “Just Dance 2”, I’ve winced more times than I’d like to admit hearing the kids singing some of the songs they’ve heard.

I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise me.  As every parent knows, lessons, habits and expressions are far better caught than taught, which can have been positive and negative results.  I have to admit that sometimes I’m a much better teacher of the right way to behave and live than I am an example.  But children aren’t the only ones watching and listening, are they?  We have neighbors, co-workers, friends, extended family and even strangers watching how we act, react and respond to situations around us.  It can be humbling to think that for those of us who follow Christ, we may be the only example and interaction those watchers ever have with a Christian.

So just what are they catching by watching us?  Are we, am I, an example that shines forth Jesus’ love?  While certainly none of us will ever be perfect, do our lives mostly reflect or muddy God’s character?  Of course there are the “easy” and “obvious” behaviors most of us would generally succeed with – honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and responsibility.  But is that all there really is?  I know plenty of people who do not follow God who display these characteristics far better than I.  So what else is there – what should Christians look and sound like?  What values should watchers observe?  I think the following four characteristics need to mark, and be observable, in the life of a Christ-follower:

  • Justice above justification – It is impossible to read the Bible and not come away with a profound understanding that God cares deeply for the least of these, and desires to see injustice corrected.  As Christ-followers we are called to do the same.  God’s kingdom – the one we pray to come in the Lord’s Prayer – is all about justice.  In fact, Jesus’ first public “sermon”, quoted from Isaiah 61, was primarily about justice:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.  Luke 4:18-19

    Unfortunately, I think we ignore God’s fundamental value of justice, and too often justify our lack of involvement in social justice issues.  A variety of excuses are offered, but basically it comes down to claiming, in one way or the other, that an individual’s challenges are “their own fault and their own making.”  I for one am glad that Jesus didn’t just judge and leave me in my fallen state, declaring my sins and troubles were undeserving of His justice and healing.  If we can stand righteous before the Lord, under the blood of Jesus, why can’t others?  And how will they do so without our genuine attention to their justice?
  • Love above ideology – Jesus loved people.  His ministry was about people and relationships built on love – not on ideologies and rules.  When asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)  Our response to people in our world – whether those who live across the street or around the globe – must be love.  We are called to extravagantly love others, not loudly declare ideologies and define rules.  How then should we live our lives?  They are to be lived out of love, not divisiveness.  Does that mean anything goes, and we simply respond to sins with a lackadaisical response?  Absolutely not.  But we are to respond as Jesus did – in His actions and by His words.  Love comes first.
  • Humility above purity – It never failed.  Every single time Jesus walked, talked or ate with certain individuals, the “religious elite” responded with hatred and disbelief.  “Why would Jesus spend time with them?”  “Who does He think He is eating with those people?”  Sinners.  Prostitutes.  Tax collectors.  Demon-possessed.  Samaritans.  Adulterers.  Women.  Children.  Jesus’ ministry on earth wasn’t about pleasing others.  It wasn’t about building a good reputation.  It wasn’t about being pure, holy and clean (although He was) by avoiding the dirty in society.  Quite the opposite.  He dealt with death, disease, heartache, sin, blood, and tears.  He was hated by those who considered him unrighteous for spending time with the sinful.  And yet Jesus persisted in humility – caring more about His purpose than what others thought. Caring more about cleansing others than getting dirty Himself.  Aren’t we to do the same?  How many today, though, avoid getting involved for fear of “getting dirty” by spending time with those people?  If you had been living in Jesus’ time, would have been dining with Him, as He welcomed sinners at His table, or standing outside scoffing at His choice of dinner guests?  We all know what we should answer, but does your life reflect that answer?  Are you more concerned with doing His work, or keeping yourself “pure” from the messiness of others’ sin and troubles?
  • Growth above judgment – Our spiritual lives are a journey.  We strive daily to take steps to more closely be formed in the image of Christ.  Sometimes our journeys are two-steps-forward-one-step-back, and yet we persevere, resting in God’s grace and mercy.  We recognize that life in Christ indeed is a journey, and not a race or a one-time-event.  We aim to grow, and often pause to consider with joy where we have come from.  But sometimes the very things that trip us up, and remind us of our daily need for Christ, are the things by which we judge and condemn others.  Why is it so easy to be thankful for God’s grace in our own lives, and yet deny His power, strength and grace in others’ lives?  God has placed a desire in each individual’s heart to connect with God.  And everyone is on that journey to discover how to fill that hole.  Some people are further along the path than others, but all are traveling.  It is not our position or role to judge or condemn individuals who haven’t yet reached a certain mile marker that we have arbitrarily established as having “arrived”.  It just isn’t.  We must extend the same grace and forgiveness to others that we celebrate with thanksgiving in our lives.

These are just some rough thoughts I’m working through right now.  My goal is to develop some of these ideas (and others) into a “Monday Morning Christian” series on what living the authentic life of a Christ-follower Monday through Saturday looks like.  What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them!