Day 37: Cripple at Your Table
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.--Luke 14:13–14
The fervent Christian wants to be close to God but I think we often feel that we need to get our act together before we can come to God. It's a sentiment that sneaks out in really subtle ways, normally revolving around the idea of our pursuit of holiness. The verse, "Be holy as I am holy," crushes us and makes us feel far from God.
We don't like our failures. We are embarrassed and ashamed by the secret sins we commit and the obviously right and good actions we omit.
I want you to know, if you feel the anxiety of your own sin you are ready to hear what I am about to say. If you don't feel that anxiety about your failings then tuck this one away for a rainy day. If you are thinking, "Oh Jim, don't be so hard on yourself," that just means you haven't looked honestly at your own life and felt the reality that you aren't all you had hope you'd be. In this case you actually aren't taking holiness seriously. "Be holy as I am holy" is in the Bible.
But "Be holy as I am holy" is not the goal. It is the fruit of the real goal. If you feel broken by your sin and if you can recognize that your pursuit of holiness isn't the main point then you'll be ready for this…
A few years ago I was driving to lead worship at a Sunday gathering and I had this overwhelming anxiety regarding my failures as a husband, father, pastor, son and friend. Basically failures in every area of my life were laid bare before my mind and I was overwhelmed and felt very far from the peace that comes in the fellowship with The Divine. My prayer in that moment went something like, "Heal me of all these things! Fix me so I no long feel guilty and ashamed." Then this song came on and it hit me…
"Do I want to be with Jesus or do I want to not feel guilty and ashamed anymore? Do I want to be with Jesus or do I just want to be healed?"
Hm. I had been using religion as a mechanism for self-help that would make me pleasing in my own sight and the sight of other religious people but I was failing at it and I was totally missing the point. I was missing out on the opportunity to be with Jesus.
But while listening to the song, the answer that came almost instantaneously was the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14. It's a story Jesus tells to help us get a sense of what it's like when God is in charge of the world. "Don't invite the people who can pay you back as if grace is a transaction that can be earned. Invite people who can't pay you back. Invite people who are incapable. Invite the lame, the blind, the crippled. Invite the people who have nothing to offer and are desperate to be invited to the party." Then I went to Mark 2, when Jesus was accused of spending all his time with "sinners". His response? "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."
You see, the Divine met me in the midst of my heart's more sneaky moments. I was asking to be healed of my sin--and that seemed like the right thing to do--but that was actually the wrong request. I want to be healed of my sin so I would no longer feel ashamed of those sins, not because I wanted to be with Jesus. Jesus met me in that moment with a grace beyond compare: "Relax about all that. I've taken care of your holiness. Just be with me." He wanted to invite me to the banquet--healed or not. My real request should have been, "Can I go to your party?"
Jesus doesn't heal you so that you can come into his presence. He brings you into his presence and that is all you need. Jesus' first concern is that we be with him. It just so happens that a fruit of that fellowship is wholeness and life, holiness and peace...in the presence of Jesus we become "unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory".
"In your presence is the fullness of joy."--Psalm 16:11
So my imagination turns to Jesus reclining with his disciples, where the one whom Jesus loved was leaning on Jesus' shoulder and I imagine myself to be the one whom Jesus loved…the Beloved. I'm in that place of complete acceptance and love where nothing else matters right now. I am fully present in this moment…maybe his shoulder falls asleep so he moves to put his arm around me and then I move to put my arm around him like a little kid cuddling with his older brother. In that moment there is no voice that says, "You aren't worthy of this." There is only room for the joy of grace.
We have to lose this "get cleaned up before I can be with Jesus" attitude. That mentality thinks it can earn a spot at the table. That mentality uses religion to get God to do for us whatever we want. It's a misunderstanding of the pursuit of holiness. We have to repent of that attitude but here's the thing! That very act of repentance, that recognition that I am unworthy but still desperately want to be with my Savior, that is the very thing that puts me in the joy of grace. It's the beginning of a holy life. It's the very thing that draws you closer to Jesus.
I confess. Heal me or don't. Only let me sit at your table and put my head against your shoulder and laugh when your laugh bounces your chest against my head and see from your perspective that you are the Lord of Grace, victorious over all my sin. Amen.