Jump Start # 3503
Mark 9:24 “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, ’I do believe; help me in my unbelief.’”
In our Jump Start yesterday we talked about being transparent and open about where we are and what we are going through. I used the example of someone I know who cuts herself. Our fear of what others might say, or worse, how they may judge us, often makes us be artificial. You’ve seen plastic and silk flowers, often sitting around pulpits. They look the same year round. In my office I have both live plants and fake plants. The real ones need tending to. I have to remember to water them. The artificial plants get a dusting now and then, but they never change.
We must be careful that we do not create a culture that is artificial. No one can live up to a standard of perfection, and that image is enough for some to just quit. “I can’t be good enough,” is the sound of defeat. Truth is, that is the truth. You can’t be good enough. And, the more we say that and admit that, the more real we become.
Our verse today comes from the father of a demon possessed boy. The demon has thrown the boy into fire and into water. What frightful moments for a parent. The father says to Jesus, “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus caught a word of doubt. He said, “If you can…” Our verse follows. How rare, honest and true this father was. Lord, help my unbelief. It’s that transparent confession that makes all the difference. We don’t hear that much these days. We are guarded, protected, safe. And, we have become artificial. How do we develop a culture of being genuine with each other?
Here are a few things that helps:
First, I may not understand your pain and you may not understand my pain, but we both know pain. We know what it is like to hurt. We know what it is like to struggle. Among us in our congregations will be someone who is really worried about how to come up with enough money to keep the car running. Someone else, not having that issue, is thinking about their medical tests coming up this week. What if it is cancer? Then what? Someone else, filled with health, is broken because his grown child will not talk to him and refuses to let the grandkids come by. He has apologized by nothing was mended between father and son. They all hurt, but in different ways. Pain comes in many colors.
There are few of us who gather on a Sunday morning who are not in some sort of pain. Some we can see by the expressions on their faces, especially as the congregation stands and sits. It hurts to do that for some. But the rest keep their pain hidden.
Honesty tells us that we hurt. We have all tasted from the cup of pain.
Second, as leaders are open about their pain, it helps others to see that it is ok to admit you are having a bad day and need help. But the opposite is true as well. When the image of perfection is put forth, then people will keep things bottled up and they will suffer silently inside.
And, what people need to see and to hear is that, even though hurting, with the help of God and the hope of God, I move onward with the Lord. It is not us who have made the difference. It is the Lord. The strength through pain is not within us, but it is in the Lord. His power. His promise. His Word. Believing those things and trusting in the Lord makes all the difference.
Third, developing a culture where the broken, the lost and the hurting are welcomed is essential to being a healthy and thriving church. The prodigal came home because he knew he could come home. He knew his father. So, among us will be those who have made mistakes. There will be those who say the wrong words. There will be those who stumble as they try to get to on their feet spiritually. There will be those who are trying to break free from the chains of addictions. We can point fingers at them and tell them how terrible they are. We can make them feel so bad that they will never come back. Or, as our gracious Lord did, we can be there and help them.
What did Jesus say to the guilty adulterous woman that was brought to Him? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more, He said. He knew. He knew what she had done. He knew she was troubled. But His words did not make her feel worse. He offered her hope and a second chance. Now, shouldn’t we do the same?
A culture in which “going forward,” is not viewed as heading to the principle’s office, and whispers start and gossip ignites, is one way this changes in a congregation. Loving one another just as I am, and not the way you want me to be, will be the steps to helping someone get closer to the Lord and stronger in their faith.
Tears, hugs, prayers and smiles ought to be the norm. Praying for one another ought to be the norm. We are disciples of Jesus. We are not perfect. He is. We need each other. We are there to help one another. Being afraid of what judgmental things someone might say ought to never be considered. That shouldn’t exist. An atmosphere of lets help each other is what we must strive for.
Changing a culture is like turning an aircraft carrier. It’s slow and hard. But, it can be done. It must be done. How many have fallen away, not because of Jesus but because of His people? Helping the hurting, recognizing the hurting and making a difference to the hurting must rank near the tops of what is important in a congregation.
We ought to have a welcome mat out in front of our church buildings and we ought to mean that. You are welcome. You are welcome though you are different than me. You are welcome though you don’t understand everything we do. You are welcome though you struggle. You are welcome though you don’t know whether to hold your hands up, clap your hands or shout, “Hallelujah,” or none of those things. You are welcome. You are welcome because God welcomes you. And, if I roll my eyes at you, forgive me. I ought to know better and I best do better.
Developing a culture of honesty, help, acceptance, love and transparency. It will help all of us. Let’s begin by being genuine.