I’ve just joined a new group on Facebook in which we are reading through the New Testament in three months. Today’s reading was Matthew 8-10. Lately, I’ve taken to reading “The Message,” one of the newer versions of the Bible. God has really used it to open my eyes to more of Him and His truths. For those of you that are purists, you probably will not appreciate the simplicity of language that this paraphrase utilizes, but I have found it refreshing to have another “voice” in which to hear God. When I read these old, familiar verses in this new manner, I find that I have more questions. Where I used to hear a lulling comfort in the words, I now have a stirring of ideas and queries that need to be sated.
I found the first part of today’s reading to be a little disturbing. Maybe it sounds strange to say that, but I found it troubling to see the juxtaposition of the compassion Jesus displayed to all those who were hurting and in need of healing in verses 8:1-18 to the curtness and, well, crabby-ness when dealing with the religious scholar, the mourner and his own disciples in the boat in the remaining verses of the same chapter. What’s even stranger is that I found the exchange to be somehow comforting to me because I could more easily see the humanity of Christ in these conversations. This passage of scripture is rife with emotional charge. I can identify with that, and it makes me love Jesus even more to know that we have that in common.
Chapter 10 jumped off the page, in particular. Christ is telling his disciples how to go about the business of, well, discipling. He tells them they don’t have to fulfill some grandiose vision of ministry. They don’t have to go to some far-off land, they don’t have to have some huge fund-raising campaign, they don’t have to look, act or be anything but who they are! Man! This is a lesson our church needs to learn today! I know I did.
Let me share with you how these words read in The Message (my own emphasis added):
“5-8 Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. TOUCH THE UNTOUCHABLES. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so LIVE generously. 9-10″Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. YOU ARE THE EQUIPMENT, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light. 11″When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and BE CONTENT there until you leave.
If you don’t believe this is something Christianity struggles with, just turn on the television and turn to ANY religious channel. With few exceptions, you will see the opposite of what you have just read! Reading the next few verses, you will see even further that we are MISSING THE BOAT when it comes to what Christ expects of his disciples. I just want to pick out a few mandates in bullet point:
Be gentle in your conversation.
Don’t make a scene.
Don’t call attention to yourselves.
Don’t be naive.
Others will smear your reputation — Don’t be upset
Don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it.
The part that struck me the most was in verses 21-23, nestled right in the middle of the passage, a truth so quick and so simple that I think we just gloss over it:
“There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end.”
We have a lot of hate in this world. In the church we hate and then we paste a pretty label on it and call it “righteous indignation” or attribute our nastiness to our Christianity. In the world we hate each other because we look differently, act differently, smell differently, believe differently. I don’t want to be the type of “Christian” I see on TV. I want to be the type of person that Christ describes in today’s reading…content, satisfied, pleasant, non-confrontational, peaceful, modest, alert, and trusting. I have a long way to go. What about you?