I was reading a brochure the other day. It was an informational brochure for a ministry that provided helps of various kinds, in a voluntary capacity. Cool. Except the brochure talked more about who they didn't serve, than who they did. I loved the sorts of things they do. I loved the idea that an organization or group could contact them and say, "Hey! We could use some help." And they would go there and help. Well, kind of. But only if you were a certain sort of group or organization. A very specific sort. They had a list of prerequisites that the group had to agree to. They had a list of demands. In exchange, the group or organization could expect to receive a very specific number of skilled and unskilled hours of labor.
I'm not entirely sure why, but it made me kind of mad. Because I still wanted to picture people saying, "Hey! We could really use some help here." I wanted to picture these other people pulling up and saying, "We can do that." And at the end of a long, sweaty day, they would all sit around and eat together. And after many days like this, they would have had many chances to learn to know one another as they worked side by side. They would know each others' strengths and weaknesses, and kind of like each other anyhow. Then, and only then, would anyone care very much what the other one had to say, or thought, or believed. And after many long, sweaty days, they would talk about that stuff while they ate together.
They would probably disagree about a great deal, as people are prone to do, but it wouldn't matter because they would be friends anyhow. And even if they disagreed about a great deal, as people are prone to do, they would enjoy talking about it, and thinking about it, and even arguing about it. They would marvel that such radically different strangers could become such dear friends.
I know that people will read this and think, well, that just isn't how things work. That sort of ministry would never get off the ground.
That's another thing that has been bugging me lately. I've been watching, and reading, and listening. It seems as though there are all these ministries trying to get off the ground...trying to pick up steam somehow. They want to be relevant. They want to reach people where they are. They want to be like Jesus, and go eat with the sinners. Kind of.
Jesus was very cutting edge. He ate with sinners and tax collectors. He hung out with lepers and women of ill repute. He got rebuked for it. But the thing is this, every time he sat down and ate with another person, every time he touched someone, he was hanging with sinners. It didn't matter if they were rich young rulers, or devout Jews, or whatever. They were all sinners. When I sit down and eat with anyone, I am eating with a sinner, and when I sit down to eat all alone, I am eating with a sinner.
I'm not Jesus. I am not lowering myself when I eat with sinners. I am not coming down from some place on high, to bring sinners a gift, or special message (that I have and they don't). I am sitting with my family. If I'm lucky we have shared a long day of work together, and we are sweaty and hungry. It's likely that we'll disagree about a great deal as we sit around the table, as sinners are prone to do. As families are prone to do. But we would also marvel that such a rag-tag family could ever be assembled, much less stay together for any length of time.
We'd probably be so tired from our work, and so engrossed in the food and conversation, that we would scarcely have time to think about whether the ministry was getting off the ground. We probably wouldn't need brochures much either.