People say the nicest things...
Before church this evening, there was a chap sitting outside, and a couple of the regulars spoke with him and then asked me to do the same. He really didn't want to listen to what I had to offer, and to be fair he seemed to be in a bit of a mess, so I invited him in whilst wondering what we could do practically to help.
It was cafe church tonight, and folk were busying themselves preparing for this, having spent quite a while with this guy. As I got the screen ready he came over with a memory stick and wanted me to put it into the laptop we use - which has zero security on it, and I just didn't feel like taking a memory stick that I had no knowledge about and stuffing it into our computer, so I (really very) politely declined, and tried to talk to the guy whilst carrying on with what I was doing.
But he was upset with me. I was accusing him of putting a virus on our machine. No - but I had to be careful. I was like all Christians, ignoring him and not willing to help. There was a book about a man going into a church, he said, where a vicar was really spiritually dead, and the man wasn't helped at all and died. It made the vicar question who he really was. What would Jesus have done?
You know, I've had a week. I have felt like a failure all week because of one situation which I tried to put right, really I did, only I made it much much worse. I'm still trying to do the right thing in that situation because there are all sorts of things I could do (some of them quite reasonable!) that would make it far, far worse. I have felt all week that the worst thing about being a vicar is that you aren't quite human. People say they want you to be human, but they don't - they really don't. Once you are in a messy situation, anything less than being perfect is simple unacceptable.
Quite right. It's how I judge myself. No-one is as hard on me as I am on myself.
I didn't need some self-righteous jerk coming in just as we were getting ready for church and reminding me of all this. And upsetting several other people by judging them as well.
I can't sort every problem. I will make some worse. It turns out that with the best will in the world, people I hold dear get hurt - and sometimes by me. Wearing a dog collar is no protection, it's not a spiritual condom, keeping the mess inside. If I need to be perfect to be the vicar - I am in the wrong job.
And so is every other clergyperson out there, though some fake it better than me.
But I won't fake it. I may not be the easiest person in the world - but I tell you this: what you get is unremittingly real. I'm just a short bald guy trying to follow Jesus, with all my heart, and if that's not enough then I'm sorry, but it's all I have to offer.
My job is to worship Jesus. That means, my job is to give myself to Jesus - all of me in total obedience to him. The good bits of me and the bad. It's a journey. It's a struggle. But it's honest and it's true and it's life changing and as long as I'm doing it, I'll invite those around me to join in. See where it goes. See where it takes me. See what it looks like.
I hold onto the job lightly - it's a privilege, not a right - but the life of following Jesus is something I will always have, something that will always remain true and will never be open to question. I do have a judge: and I don't dread him.
When Jesus tells us not to judge each other, it's because we have this thing whereby we forget that in the moment our own lack of perfection prevents us from both seeing everything as it really is, and from saying everything as it really is. So love and tolerance and forgiveness end up being better options so many times because what we'd want to receive on our off days is what we should offer. And how do people get better? People who need to be told how wrong they are?
Anyone who thinks condemnation works better than counsel hasn't quite understood the difference between how the Accuser works in our lives, and how the Spirit works. Call me old fashioned, but with Romans 5.8 high in my mind, I'm going to opt for love as the higher motivator every time.
Now. I have a self-righteous jerk to forgive, though I may never see him again. And there are others high on my heart to pray for too. And I have to go back to busily being a failure as I so imperfectly try to be a human being following Jesus - albeit with all my heart; anyone coming to join me?