Messy - The Dynamic Duo

Impressions go a long way. Before Crossroads began, we visited a number of churches and each left an impression – some good and some not so good. As someone who wears a name tag everyday – almost everywhere I go, I am constantly aware of the impression that I make and leave – everyone knows that it was Ken who has been there!

I’ve been reading a great deal on the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers and George Washington. As a “start-up,” there are a great deal of similarities between the start of the USA and a new church. The impressions of other nations regarding the original 13 colonies was crucial for the USA. The impressions of the people regarding George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin and a host of others were important as well.

It has only been recently that biographers and historians have begun to publish and market the more seedy details of the Founders. Maybe it is just we’re just a society eager for the information. But in the start of the Church, Jesus didn’t pick people with exemplary resumes. And arguably the two most influential men in the early Church were far from perfect – both Peter and Paul, lived very messy lives

Peter – Denied Christ and Jesus called him Satan.
Mark 8:31-33 (31) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. (32) And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (33) But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

It is hard to imagine the only other person Jesus calls Satan…the other being Judas who betrayed him…becoming the “Rock” on which the Church would be built. It is even harder to imagine that 1) Jesus would tell Peter that he would deny Jesus, 2) Peter would do just that – deny knowing Jesus 3 times, and 3) Jesus would come back and forgive. It’s only hard for us because we cannot see past the mess.

The other of the dynamic duo would be Paul, who was too Religious & a murderer. He was quite the religious type – militant and focused. According to him there was none whose life was messier.

Act 9:1-6 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest (2) and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (3) Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. (4) And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (5) And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (6) But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."

Not only did have a messy past but Paul’s conversion messed up Christians, Jews and the Romans! But it was out of the mess of Paul’s life that the Good News of Jesus Christ spread beyond Jerusalem and the Jews to the world!

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, everyone cheered and celebrated…but Jesus knew what was to come, he knew how messy things were going to get. The contradictions abounded for these same ones would be asking for crucifixion and his death within the week. We know for certain that Peter was there that first Palm Sunday and later he would deny Jesus. As a Pharisee, it is quite possible that Paul was there on the other side and would be there when the first martyr for the Christian faith was killed.

Jesus did not mind the mess. In fact, it was because of the mess of contradictions and mistakes that we make that Jesus came. For both Peter and Paul, Jesus offered second and third chances. He met them right in the mess. For us Jesus does the same. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church: Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son! For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which he gave to us in such large measure! (Eph 1:6-8a GNB)

I can tell you that as a teenager, preparing for graduation but having no hope for my future – Jesus met me in the mess. Life has never stopped being messy – whether it is my own mess or those around.

We can’t run away far enough. We can’t yell loud enough. We can’t fly high enough. We can’t dive deep enough. We can’t sin so much that Jesus will not forgive the mess we make of our lives.


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