This past Sunday I had the privilege of teaching my Middle Schoolers about Jesus - and you might already be thinking "You're a Youth Pastor, don't you talk about Him all the time?" Well, to answer your question, yes, but this past week and the next 6 are a bit different. We are diving much deeper into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ - which by the way I am completely excited about and have not ever had quite the opportunity. Any way- one of the questions I asked my students this week was...
"What is the Gospel?"
One student said "the story of Jesus" and other said "those four books at the beginning of the New Testament" - both answers are correct but I went on to say that I had put some thought into it and here is what I came up with:
"The Gospel is the message of God's unyielding love for an undeserving people."
An unyielding, unrelenting, unconditional, blind kind of love for an undeserving, judgmental, proud, life of harlotry... kind of people.
What a crazy idea. What a crazy kind of love.
Yesterday I sat at Starbucks, enjoying my afternoon sabbatical where I was working through THIS week's lesson, my application to The Bible Seminary... mixed in with emails, Facebook, and returning calls.
It was a nice day, so I decided to forgo my usual indoor table and move outside. I quickly discovered that like the spot located directly outside of baggage claim at the airport, Starbucks too was a place where people liked to enjoy a good smoke. Of course I was immediately put off and wanted to go inside, but it was just far too cold as usual, and the day was far to nice as 'un'usual. So, at the little silver table I would stay.
Over the course of 30 minutes I probably tweeted half a dozen times about my funny surroundings: Older Gentlemen in the corvette taking photos of people, the girl with the extra small booty shorts, the large number of smokers, and last but not least, "tank top guy (who was also smoking) with the hairy chest - giving me the 'eye'!"
I found myself thinking about hairy-tank-top-guy and thinking less and less of him as the moments past by - and more and more of myself. I was like "Why does this guy keep giving me the eye...as if I would ever be interested..." "He is smoking for crying out loud, and that tank top??! You cannot be serious."
So after several people had come and gone from his table - (shorts girl, the main barista, and another gal) -I found myself on a call with my good friend. I was talking on my earbuds and at one point Mon was talking for you know about 45 seconds - so it seemed as if I was no longer on the call. Well at that moment, hairy-tank-top-guy says to me, "Are you still on your call? If so, can I speak with you when you are finished?" And I responded with a 'polite' nod.
So after I lingered for a few moments longer on my call I hesitantly hit the end button - and followed that by, "hello, there."
"Hello." he said.
"I do not want you to think I am some creeper or anything, and I know it is completely random and here we are at Starbucks - but I have just been really needing to tell you that I think that you are devastatingly beautiful."
"Huh?" I said.
"Well I have just been sitting here and I kept hoping all those people would just leave me alone because I just knew I had to tell you - and I know this might seem forward, and I see you're packing up to leave, but I would love to give you my phone number."
"Uhh (and let me just point out that THIS sort of thing NEVER happens to me) ... pause. You know, thank you. Honestly, that is a lovely compliment, one of the best ever - but I am really not in a position to take your number, I'm sorry. But what I do what to tell you is that this is all so ironic for me, because of your compliment... I mean - and this is random I know, but I actually gave up make-up for Lent."
"No way! That is so awesome. So you are a Christian? Me too!"
I go on to tell him that I am a Youth Pastor at Grace and how much I love my job...
He then tells me all about his church, and his experience with CHURCH overall - and how it's been really hard for him, because he feels like Christians and Churches are so judgmental. How his tattoos his past always define him, even though he has been completely renewed and redeemed in the Lord... "Like a drowning man I was saved,"- he commented. He said the church he goes to, "The Waters Church" in Katy is all about non-perfect people, serving a perfect God. How he plays in the band, and how living for the Lord is the best and biggest part of his life.
I sat, my heart feeling like it was going to be overwhelmed with embarrassment and shame. I had been less than 5 feet away from him for the last 2 hours, filled with judgment, pride, and anything but grace.
The book of Matthew, the first book of the Gospel, among Mark, Luke and John, tell the stories of a Man who came to love the unloved, the undeserving. The Gospel tells story after story about how Jesus spent time with people who were tatted-up, hairy-chested, and tank-top wearing. People with pasts, people with mistakes, people who no one else ever sees, or if they are seen, they are treated much like the Leper - as unclean and unworthy of their time.
Sounds pretty familiar.
Thank goodness for the Gospel, and thank goodness for this Matthew- whose life has been made new in Jesus. It is so easy to dismiss people, to be judgmental, to overlook and be self-absorbed. Can you imagine if Jesus was like that?
I am completely humbled by the fierce and unyielding love - especially because it was for those that were, ARE always overlooked.
This interaction between Matthew and myself is all to common in my 'churchy' world. In that moment I was no better than those people that Jesus warned and taught against. Far too often we are all like that. Thankfully we have a God who is better than we are, better than I am for sure, and we also have the story of a Man who helped us see fully this love.
So, what is the Gospel?
It is the devastatingly beautiful story of a man named Matthew who in the end ended up teaching me far more about that unyielding love, than I was ever was prepared to offer to him. Intention or not, (perhaps that plan should be only known to God) Matthew is the Gospel and helped me to understand it far more clearly than I ever have before.
Who do you not see? Who do you overlook? Would your church accept people like Matthew? I sure am asking myself the same questions.
*note - to be called devastatingly beautiful, without my make-up by a stranger, was crazy - and even though he meant it as a normal gal liking dude - I do feel like Jesus is so at work IN EVERYTHING about my life right now, and this was NO accident by any stretch.