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Confessions of a Second-Class Christian
Posted on March 5, 2015 by Lori Roeleveld
Recently, I visited a place that reminded me I don’t really belong in the church.
You know, because they know my stuff.
Some people have met me through my writing, others through my work, some have become friends through shared struggles, but these church people knew me in failure, pain, rumors, and lies. For some, that cancels me out of full-on belonging in the family.
You know, I can sit with them because Jesus even let in prostitutes and tax collectors but I’ll never really be one of them. I can worship, but only from the cheapseats.
I feel as though it’s always been that way with me and the church. There was a story I used to read at Christmas when I was child called “The Little Match Girl,” by Hans Christian Anderson – a story much more tragic than my own about a homeless little girl who lights magical matches on New Years’ Eve and can see beautiful Christmas tableaus inside people’s homes but she cannot enter. With her last match, she sees her grandmother who has gone on to heaven, beckoning her there to a beautiful place where she is welcome at last.
That story touched me as a child because I imagined that most people had perfect families like the ones the girl saw through the walls. I hoped that if I was very, very perfect, I could overcome my own imperfect origin. And then, if I could create a perfect family with Jesus’ help, then I would belong.
But, you know, there’s no perfection on this side of glory even when we know Jesus. The moment we learn that lesson, when we light our final match and find ourselves still sitting out in the cold, it can shatter our faith, but really what shatters is the illusion of faith and that’s where true faith begins.
Until that moment, many of us believe our entrance into God’s kingdom is some kind of partnership between us and Jesus. We KNOW Jesus does MOST of the work but we function under the delusion that it’s something like a 60/40 proposition – 70/30 at the most. This gives us, we believe, the right to look down on those for whom it seems a 90/10 kind of deal.
But when we light our last match and it fails to save us from the cold reality of our world, that’s when we realize salvation is 100% Jesus. Our entrance to His kingdom rests solely on His shoulders on the cross. He fully redeemed us with no help from us at all. Maybe that’s why the Holy Spirit came with “tongues of fire.” All our matches were spent. We couldn’t even muster a spark without Jesus.
Matthew understood being an outsider. He didn’t belong anywhere. He didn’t belong with his people, the Jews, because he’d sold them out to work for their oppressors, the Romans. He didn’t belong with the Romans because, by birth, he was a Jew. He is, for me, evidence that the disciples didn’t invent a religion because they never would have included Matthew. He didn’t belong.
And yet, Jesus chose Him. Loved Him. Included Him in His inner circle. Commissioned Him. Redeemed Him completely. Selected Him to write one of only four gospels – words that would be read and re-read for centuries by millions. Jesus took the outsider and made him the ultimate inside man.
None of us would have seen anything worth redeeming about Matthew. He stole. He lied. He betrayed his own people. He cooperated with the enemy. He was a low-life. We wouldn’t have seen anything worth redeeming about Matthew because there was nothing worth redeeming. He became of worth through His redemption in Christ. I was not worth redeeming either. But I now have worth because I have been redeemed.
The enemy knows about those of us who feel like second-class Christians. He plays on that. He sticks His finger in that wound and sometimes he orchestrates circumstances to rip it wide open again. He does it to paralyze, to immobilize, to render us impotent in the work of furthering God’s kingdom – if he can. We need to spot his attack and guard against it. Our defense is God’s word – a steady assault of the truth that we are called to belong, as Paul says in Romans 1:6 “including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” (ESV) Our defense is Christ Himself. He chose to redeem us, to include us, to bring us into His family and let no one speak against His work.
Have you ever felt like a second-class Christian either because of your own failings, people’s false impressions of you, or through the failings of loved ones? Resist the enemy’s attempts to contain the work of Christ in you and through you by muting your gifts which are for the building up of the body of Christ. Because you see, even this work of inclusion isn’t about any one of us, it’s about Jesus and about building the church of which He is the head.
Pray for me not to silence myself and I will pray for you, loved ones. No matter what our circumstances, the truth of them or what others think about them, Jesus has the final word on our lives and that word is redeemed.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my new book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) I hope you will! I wrote it for every Christian who’s been knocked down once or twice and who needs to be invited or incited to keep going deeper with Jesus. If you’ve read it and are considering using it with your Sunday school, Bible study, or small group, you’ll find a free downloadable handout of Hints and Helps for Small Group Leaders here!Thank you, thank you, to the many who have taken a moment to help spread the word about this book by leaving a review on Amazon or by mentioning it to your friends. The book can be found at your local bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.
- See more at: http://loriroeleveld.com/blog/confessions-of-a-second-class-christian/#sthash.rLp8lR0J.dpuf