Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall. —Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls
The Church has lots of well-intended but callous advice for messy people. To people who have lost everything—marriage, children, health, or jobs—the Church has been known to see their depression and say something like, “Real Christians don’t deal with depression.” Perhaps we forget that this person came to church this morning hoping to find a family.
How many times at church have you said hello to a person who smells like a smoke-filled bar and thought, If you were totally surrendered, Jesus would help you quit? Never mind that this person almost turned around when they saw the parking lot.
Listen, these aren’t the types of conversations Jesus had with messy people. These conversations are an effort to make people tidy. But Jesus didn’t come to make messy people into tidy people.
I know that might be a shock for some. Your entire church life, you thought this was the point: Take messy people and clean them up. So if Jesus didn’t come to make messy people tidy, then what did Jesus come to do?
In Luke 5:27, Jesus saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. Tax collectors were messy people. They had all sorts of entanglements with money and ethics. So Jesus said, “Hey, buddy, clean up your act!”
Not at all. Levi was messy, but Jesus never looked someone in the eye and said, “Clean up your act.”
Instead, Jesus looked at Levi and said, “Follow me.”
And Levi did. He got up, left everything behind, and held a great banquet for Jesus at his house—with a large crowd of messy people.
Jesus isn’t repelled by our messiness, friends. And His goal is not to make us tidy.
Lord, I’ve heard of people overseas who live in a dump, and I cannot imagine where I would rest in such a mess. How could I breathe with a stench so strong? But You know, don’t You? You came down from heaven to live on earth. As You walked among us, You invited the messiest to follow. You aren’t scared of my mess. You aren’t afraid the stench of my sin will cling to You. I’m bathing in Your acceptance, Jesus. Amen.
Learn more from Pete’s teaching on Luke, What Will Jesus Do?