I had a friend tell me once that she couldn’t be a part of a church because she had made too many mistakes. Her life was a mess. She wouldn’t dare walk in the door and be with all those perfect people. She laughed when she said that the ceiling might actually cave. Have you ever heard anything like that? Maybe you’ve even said or thought something similar. Shame is great about keeping us from God but God is so much greater than the negative words we tell ourselves.
Our Heavenly Father is no stranger to scandal. He even begins the Gospels by listing some of the most controversial women and situations in the entire Bible (Matthew 1). Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, Ruth and Mary aren’t what you would think of when you think of stereotypical church ladies. They were known for seduction, adultery, prostitution, and suspected fornication. Rahab and Ruth spent the first part of their lives worshiping false gods. These are the stories you sweep under the rug or tuck neatly away in a closet. Most wouldn’t lay them out on the table at the beginning of the lineage of the Savior but God did. I love the fact that he didn’t want to hide them.
Even the life and death of Jesus was drenched in scandal. His unwed, but engaged mother was found pregnant; a death sentence under the old law.
When Herod learned that he had been tricked by the wise men, his rage led to the murder of every male toddler in the land.
The Pharisees were indignant that the son of a carpenter from Nazareth would dare to proclaim himself the son of their God.
The pious were disgusted that this popular preacher would surround himself with sinners and break their sacred traditions.
When the seekers wanted to know which laws they needed to adhere to the most, Jesus didn’t pull out the church rule book of what we can and can’t do, instead he told them to love God and love each other. He boiled every commandment they had ever known down to one word. Love.
The Son of God taught a new form of religion; one that said to bless your enemies, cherish and protect your marriage and love those who hate you. He preached that if you wanted to be a leader then you needed to be a servant. He encouraged us to feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned and love the unlovable. When the world retaliated in hate and violence, he told us to have compassion for others and forgive our enemies. Does it get any more scandalous than that?
Jesus came into a world of scandal and brought his own.
There is nothing that you have done that could make Jesus gasp. No decision too big or too bad that could keep you out of his Kingdom. He didn’t come to earth and pretend his life was perfect. He didn’t hide the scandals to trick you into following. God laid out clearly what has happened and what will happen. Jesus died for you so that you can live for him.
The church is full of scandalous people with broken, messy lives. We don’t have all the answers. We never said we did. We’re just trying to follow the one who does.
Paula Harrington is the mother of five children and resides in Calvert City. She is compiler and editor of the books, Once Upon a Bible Class, A Common Bond and A Sunday Afternoon with the Preachers’ Wives. Her work has appeared in Christian Woman magazine, the Christian Chronicle newspaper and numerous other sites and websites. When she’s not teaching at one of Marshall County’s finest schools, she’s helping her family at the Calvert Drive-in Theater (and by helping, she means eating the cheeseburgers). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org