Willing to get a little messy

Messy CowWhere there are no oxen, the manger is clean – Proverbs 14:4a

Have you ever noticed that when you are the only one at home, it is easier to keep the house exactly as you like it? But when everyone is home, a little bit of chaos seems to take over. We accept the chaos so that we can be with the people we love.

In the same way, ministry, effective ministry, will get a little bit messy. We are called to minister to brokenness and brokenness is often very icky. Interaction with people brings chaos in its wake.

When people feel pressured to hide their struggles because they are unsure of how they will be received, no-one benefits. Perhaps the “good” church people feel as though they benefit, but that is an illusion.

In reality, if we could all be open and honest about our failures, hurts and fears along with our successes, two things would happen.

The first is that real, genuine, Biblical humility would be promoted. I already know of my own propensity toward neglect or rebellion against God. But when I submit myself to an environment where it is acceptable to be honest about who I am and I encounter those who will also be honest, then we can cut through the nonsense of pretending that our situations are otherwise. True humility is not putting myself down, it is learning to see myself as God sees me. I, like the people around me, are a flawed mix of talents, gifts and abilities. I have blind spots and prejudices. If others let me see their reality, then I am better able to see my own. Pretense gives way to honesty and all benefit. A rising tide lifts all boats.

The second thing that will happen is that our fellowship will be something that becomes very attractive to others.

It is no secret that politicians are almost universally disliked. They are so because they work hard at using lots of words to say very little. They work to keep from offending anyone and therefore can’t say what they really think. We don’t like them because we cannot determine if the opinion they are espousing is their own or if they are saying what they think we want to hear. We would prefer honesty.

But a person or group that accepts you as you are but is not afraid to say what they really think, is refreshing to be around.

The point of all this is that if we are going to be effective in making disciples, our interactions will sometimes (often?) be messy. We will need to be open and honest, willing to change, willing to give grace, willing to receive grace and willing to help clean up some messes as we go through life.

We have broken relationships for which we are at least partly responsible for breaking. We have made choices which have resulted in unpleasant consequences that need to be addressed or endured. We have embraced parts of our culture that are contrary to God’s plan and need to be repented of. We have physical issues for which we need the help and support of a church family. We have a lot of stuff that we would like to hide but that stuff will not go away or get better if we do. We can get overwhelmed by the amount of brokenness, but God is big enough to deal with it all.

I’ll leave you with one last thought. Look at the people Jesus hung out with. Several of them were fishermen. One was a traitorous tax collector. Another was a terrorist who associated with those who wanted to kill all the Romans. Sinners were forgiven and accepted by Jesus. He touched lepers, went to parties and disobeyed the religious leaders. The blind, lame, possessed, mute and diseased, pressed in around Jesus to be healed.

Jesus was not afraid to be seen with people of bad reputation or low social standing. He was not afraid to get a little messy to bring home those he came to save. The only person that Jesus sought to please was his Heavenly Father.

If we are to be effective in making disciples, we will have to have a similar desire to please the Father and similar disregard for our own reputations.