I grew up in the American church, full of contradictions, legalism, and self-righteousness. Don’t get me wrong; there were many genuine followers of Jesus, full of grace and truth. And yet, I still recall hearing pastors and teachers saying, “Real Christians don’t doubt” and “Avoiding hell is why you should follow Jesus.”
Jesus didn’t talk too much about hell, despite its very real existence. Rather, He talked constantly about a Kingdom of redeemed failures, zeros, and misfits.
For many years of my life Jesus felt distant, despite my best efforts at living a good “Christian life” to avoid being condemned. Church felt more like an empire of self-righteousness than an empire of shattered hearts desperate for grace. Suits and ties covered dysfunction and secrets in the dark. Concerns for appearance, musical preference, and “R” rated movies dominated moral concerns, rather than grace for the darkened heart, the Father’s love for the broken in spirit, and the zeros written off by society.
But who was Jesus, really?
Was he really the God of Sunday morning rituals, or was he the lover of fragmented creatures in a fallen world? Is Jesus really more concerned with you chasing a get-out-of-hell card, rather than seeking the invisible, eternal kingdom comprised of misfits?
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17
Throughout His life, Jesus was very clear what He came to do:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 17:10
Maybe you didn’t grow up in church. Maybe your only exposure to Jesus was someone who professed to follow Jesus, but lived a life absent of grace and mercy. Maybe you’ve been hurt by the church and Jesus represents spiritual abuse rather than spiritual awakening.
Jesus is not that pastor who hurt you through the abuse of leadership. Jesus is not the pastor on the television asking for your money.
Jesus is concerned with you coming back to life.
Awakening. Redemption. Healing.
When Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders were weighing down the people with man-made regulations and self-righteous burdens. They went around honoring themselves with titles such as Rabbi, praying extensively in public to be noticed, and honoring themselves above the common people.
Jesus wanted none of it.
If you feel like a broken misfit, maybe you can relate to my love for the following passage from Scripture:
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of you were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-30
I don’t know your journey, nor do I know what you’ve been through. You may not even believe in the whole “Jesus thing”. This may seem irrelevant to you, but I believe it is the most relevant invitation you will ever receive.
Jesus is closer than you think, though He may feel far away. You are loved right now, with all your failures, your brokenness, and your regrets. You are invited to experience grace.
Are you willing to ask Jesus the hard questions?
If you’re honest with yourself, do you even know who Jesus really is, not just the person you heard about in church as a teenager?
May we always be seekers of truth, lovers of grace, and mercy.
You’re invited to the Kingdom of misfits, losers, and zeros.