>Despised and Accepted

>What is the Church? Day 2: Accepting

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

One of the values that I admire about Brookwood Church is that we accept people as they are. Think about it. How else would we accept them? I suppose we could put them on some sort of probation and accept them for what they might become or accept the parts we like, but not the rest. But, to be part of a place that doesn’t judge and truly loves. Now that’s something. (Cue the “Cheers” theme song in the background).

I find this passage interesting because Jesus met a despised tax collector named Matthew. Now, tax collectors of the day were often ruthless and unfair to the public. Most earned their poor reputation, not to mention a little cash out of the till.

Matthew was a tax collector. The passage doesn’t say that he was kind or fair, so we can assume that he was just like the rest. Matthew needed Jesus just like the sick need a doctor.

We should also note that this Gospel is written by Matthew, the tax collector, who became a disciple and later an apostle. Jesus looked past his tax booth and saw a life to rescue, a soul to save, and a man to empower. As Neil Cole says, “You see great growth in sinful people because there’s so much fertilizer in their lives.”

Think about the people you meet. What does Jesus think of them? Who would Jesus reject? Is there someone in your life who needs to be accepted and encouraged? What can you do to show acceptance today?

Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

>Transformed or Pretending to be?

>What is the Church? Day 1: Authentic

Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Ephesians 4:22-25 (Msg)

Authenticity takes a great deal of courage. Inauthenticity takes a great deal of energy. The dictionary defines “authentic” as “not false or copied; genuine; real.” The issue with authenticity comes when we don’t fit in, but we pretend that we do.

When I was about 14 years old, I used a word at home that I only used at school. My dad told me about someone who was treating him unfairly. I said, “I’d be _______ at him.” (Insert the past tense of a four letter word for urinating). My sentiment was genuine. The problem was at home I was not the kind of boy that used such a word. But, at school I was. I was caught in the dilemma of being authentic and inauthentic at the same time. At the time, I think I just went to my room and died a thousand deaths.

Often when we read Paul’s words about casting off everything attached to our old way of life, we instantly reference a list of sinful behaviors forbidden by the church. But, that’s only part of it. The “old way of life” for many of us is a Pandora’s box of dysfunctional behaviors. From avoidance and rage to escape and passive-aggressive behavior, most of us are a bit of a mess. We know how to depend on ourselves. We know how to cope temporarily with the situations around us. We don’t know how to put on this new life in Christ very well.

We pour our energies into pretending to be transformed rather than actually being transformed. It’s exhausting.

We’re tempted by things we would never mention. We reject others who remind us of ourselves. We look the part and act the part, but often we’re just dying a thousand deaths inside.

In the movie, The Lion King, young Simba escaped from home bearing the shame of believing he caused his father’s death. After much time had passed Simba encounters wise old Rafiki who confronts Simba and his life of escape. Rafiki declares, “You don’t even know who you are.” This is what Paul declares in this verse: No more lies. No more pretense. No more hiding. You are God’s child. Be God’s child. Don’t just pretend. Lay claim to who you really are.

What about you is inauthentic? In what way might you be pretending to be someone that you are not? What are you dying a thousand deaths over? Right now take a moment and ask God to help you remove this old garment of inauthenticity and put on the new garment of life in Him. This will take more work than just one prayer, but it’s a start.

God made you to be who you are. With His help, you can become the best version of yourself that He intends. You can resemble Christ Himself. God will give you the courage to be authentic. 

Scripture quotations taken from The Message. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

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