Jesus invited a tax collector (someone who worked for the Roman Empire) and a zealot (someone who wanted to overthrow the Romans Government) to join his small group of disciples. Matthew and Simon were extremes, and they both found community in Jesus.
This past week I listened to the audiobook for People to Be Loved by Preston Sprinkle, and I began reading When the Center Does Not Hold by David Brubaker. I’m about 30% through Brubaker’s book so I’m not writing a reveiw of any kind in this post. These books are not talking about the same topic, but something that I found consist in their messaging. Jesus is not afraid of extremes. He calls people into relationship with him and he has the power to transform the extreme labels that we wear, so that those labels don’t define us.
Jesus doesn’t call us to water down our passions. But he can redirect our passions for his purposes. The Apostle Paul was an extreme person. He was breathing out murderous threats on his way to arrest followers of Jesus. Jesus halted Paul’s trip to Damascus, and radically transformed this Christian-hater into a church planting disciple maker. Paul who was one of the most passionate followers of the law, a Pharisee of Pharisees, became the voice that carried the gospel to the gentile nations. All the zeal that Paul had towards matters of the law, Jesus transformed and directed to be zealous for the message of God’s grace.
I pray that our churches, in-person an online, would be filled with extreme people. We need Matthews and Simons, and Pauls, who recognize that they are desperately in need of Jesus. We need not fear the extremes, if we keep directing people to Jesus as our shared center.
Yesterday Kathy and I were going to Costco, and we were talking about relationships with people and church leadership. Sometimes people leave for a bit, and come back because they know you are still there. It reminded me of an illustration I read years ago from Exiles by Michael Frost. Frost was comparing ranching techniques between different cultures. Some cultures build miles of fences to keep their herds and flocks in place. In other cultures, the rancher digs wells so the herds and flocks know where to come back for fresh, live sustaining water.
Jesus said that he is the living water. As a pastor, I am not afraid of extreme people, because they still need water. Jesus was not afraid of the extreme people, because he knew that they still needed water that he alone could offer.
I pray that we set aside our extremes and our labels for ourselves and others, and drink deeply that living water that Jesus gives us.
I pray that our passions for causes will be motivated not by our “right-ness” but by Christ’s righteousness.
Lord Jesus help us find our center in you alone.