On Monday, I let folks weigh in on their take on what Jesus would do with the desperate housewife who came to a church for the first time looking for answers from God but didn’t know the unwritten rules for church “decorum” and caused a stir. You can see the post and the response through the following two links:
I promised that if I got some responses, I would share my own, at best tenous, response as well. So here goes.
Rather than just shoot from the hip and blow something up, I did go back this morning and read through the story of Jesus — I used a neat little harmony of the gospels (okay, I know this is hard for those of us of the rhetorical studies bunch to even hear, but I actually found it quite wonderful to read the harmony in one sitting). There are a bunch of answers I would be tempted to share. What would Jesus say to this searching and seeking mom? Hmm.
Several of the responses to the post were really on target in my opinion. Jesus stirred up trouble pretty much every time he showed up at Synagogue or Temple because He wasn’t content to let Sabbath be a day of rules that ran over people. He blasted religious leaders for weighing folks down instead of lightening people’s burdens. He clearly identified with those who were unclean — physically like the woman with the flow of blood and the leper, or spiritually like Zaccheaus, the woman at the well, and Matthew’s buddies who knew how to party big time.
So I feel like Jesus would have felt very comfortable in talking to the woman and she would have been comfortable asking him questions. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Lord would have loved the interruption of “normal church” by a seeking outsider determined to find God in the middle of her own mess — remember the sinful woman from the city in Luke 7!
So for me, Jesus’ response to her questions would have been a combination of a beginning of a real answer (the principles of Matthew 5:45; Luke 13:1-5; and John 3:17), communication of genuine concern (Luke 7:13), and an authentic invitation to find out more and learn just who HE (Jesus) really is (Matthew 11:28-30 and John 4). So here’s my bumbling set of responses from things Jesus said using the TNIV:
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her … (Luke 7:13)
“[Because of His love, my Father] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) … Do you think that these … were worse sinners … because they suffered this way … or those who died … do you think they were more guilty than all the others … ? I tell you no!” (Luke 13:2-5) … “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17).
[But] “Come to Me, … you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul[s]. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Now here’s the same thing using the Message and melded with the story into a smoother form:
When Jesus saw Lynette in church with all her confusion and struggles, His heart broke for her. Jesus welcomed her and said, “Lynette, this is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — He gives it to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. Do you think those who suffer are worse sinners than others who don’t? Do you think think that those who had awful accidents were worse citizens than those who weren’t invovled? Not at all! That’s not how God works. But it is important that you have turned your heart toward Him and want to know His answers. So please know this: God loves you and even though some things are confusing, you can count on one things for certain. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending Me, His Son — His best — merely to point an accusing finger, telling you and the world how bad you are. No He sent Me to help, to put the world right again and help you find real life.
Now you may never know completely how all tragedy and accident stuff works — prophets, philosophers, and preachers have been working on that one for a long time! But if you are tired or worn out or burned out on religion, please come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. You see, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking Me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water and I would give light that would light up the dark places in your life and real food that nourishes your soul.”