Have you met Jesus?

Have you met Jesus?

Jul 04
Have you met Jesus?

Today I got to be “Jesus” for a young family.  They were trying to get out of the place they’re renting and into a new home, but didn’t have enough for the first month’s rent and deposit.  God blessed me with enough to make the deposit for them.  It was such a delight to get to be part of what God is doing for them and to hear them give God the glory for it.

But that wasn’t my favorite part.  My favorite part was when God “winked” at me.

I had met the family in front of Lowe’s to give them a check.  While we were standing there visiting, a Lowe’s employee walked by, pointed at me, and exclaimed, “It’s Jesus!”

He was probably referring to my appearance, but that wasn’t how I felt in that moment.  In that moment, I heard God say, “I see my Son in you.”

I grinned at the employee, held my hand out, and said, “How are you, brother?”  He shook my hand and smiled before going back to his duties.  Sadly, I didn’t catch his name.

This story from this morning cemented something that has been on my heart for a while.  It’s a message that God has been working on in me for some time.  It’s been part of countless conversations I’ve had lately.  It’s a critical element of the book that I’m reading.  Everywhere I turn, this idea has been right in front of me.  When God winked at me this morning, I felt like it was time to write about it.

The purpose of relationships in many churches seems to be to “bring people to Christ.”  I have come to believe that this is fundamentally flawed.  We treat relationships as a means to an end, with the “end” being to bring people to Christ.

I believe that the “end” should be the relationship itself, for no other purpose or agenda than to have a relationship.

To put it another way, if I have to “bring people to Christ” then He isn’t where I am.  If I have to bring people to Him, then I didn’t bring Him with me.  If I have to bring someone to church for them to meet Jesus, then He isn’t living in me.  He isn’t present with me – He’s at the church.  Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  I believe His Spirit lives inside me, travels with me, goes where I go.  Jesus is wherever I am.  If you meet me, you should meet Him.

I realize this can sound really self-righteous, like I think I’m some kind of “saint.”  To be honest, I am a saint, but it has nothing to do with me being great or perfect.  It has everything to do with what God has done in my life through Jesus.  I’m not a perfect person, nor do I claim to be.  In my weaker moments, I wallow in self-pity, painfully aware of just how broken and flawed I am.

But that isn’t who Jesus says I am.  I’m still working on seeing myself the way He does.

I grew up with a pretty traditional view of Jesus.  He came to Earth as part of a ministry, to save people from sin, and when His ministry was complete He went back home.  Sort of like humanity was some kind of service project.  It had absolutely nothing to do with relationship.

I’m coming to see it completely differently.  Relationship is everything.  We couldn’t come to God, we couldn’t be together in a relationship, so He came to us.  He became human, became what we are, so that we could have relationship.  Relationship is part of the very essence of God – He has always lived in relationship with Himself as what we call the Trinity.  God is three people who are also the same – the perfect relationship.  It’s what I believe He wants with us:  relationship.

If it’s about relationship, then it doesn’t end with saving humankind from sin.  This wasn’t some pet project.  Jesus didn’t ascend back into Heaven, dust Himself off, and say, “Check that off the list.  What’s next?”

What I’m trying to say, is that for too long Christians have used relationships as a means to an end.  We use relationship as a means to manipulate people into becoming Christians.  And once that goal has been achieved the relationship is suddenly less important.  I’ve observed it countless times.  Churches have used relationship as a recruitment tool and once they have their new recruit, they go off looking for a newer recruit.

That was never once how Jesus did it.  His relationships were for the sake of relationship.  It was about connecting with someone, about making them feel loved, or meeting their greatest need in that moment.  When someone was lonely, he dealt with their loneliness.  When someone was mourning, He mourned with them.  When someone was scared, He dealt with their fear.  Never once did He then use that as leverage.  He never treated anyone as if they now owed Him something, or as if there was now some obligation or expectation.  He loved them as they were and His love changed them because they wanted more of Him.

I completely reject the notion of relational ministry, of entering into relationship with someone in order to “bring them to Christ.”

Instead, I’m trying to live an incarnational ministry.  I want to be Christ to the people I meet.  I want them to see Jesus in me, to meet Him because they’ve met me.  While part of me wants to say that it’s horribly imperfect, that would diminish His power and His ability to overcome my imperfection.  Jesus wants relationship with people even more than I do.

With all my heart, I believe that God created us for relationship and to know love.  I know how much I need that, so I try to give it to others.  I try to engage in relationship without agenda, simply for the sake of relationship, even if it’s just for that moment.  Whether that person is a cashier, wait staff, or anyone else that we often fail to notice – I try to connect with everyone, even if just for those few moments.  I want people to feel noticed, to be seen, and to feel valued simply because we met each other.

I want to be the Jesus they might never have met before.  The Jesus who loves them and knows them by name.  The Jesus who touched lepers.  The Jesus who gave people back their dignity.  The Jesus who demanded nothing.  The Jesus who meets needs.  The Jesus who pays deposits.  The Jesus who looks into a stranger’s eyes and asks, “How are you, brother?”

I’m still not very good at it, but I’m working on it.  I love Jesus so much, I admire Him so much, that I want to be like Him.  He is who I want to be when I “grow up.”

So I invite Jesus to come with me wherever I go.  I ask Him to be part of everything I do.  I invite Him to the store, to work, and even on vacation.  I even invite Jesus to come to church with me.  I think He likes it there – not because that’s where He lives and hangs out, but because there are so many people gathered there that He adores and with whom He wants to grow into closer relationship.

I’ve tried to stop having an agenda in any of my relationships.  My goal isn’t for you to become a Christian.  I’m not trying to change you or make you “behave.”  I just want you to know what it feels like to be loved, to feel important, to feel known…

…and to not feel judged.

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