On the floor, not at the table

A man once told me he would have become a Christian sooner if it hadn’t for some of the Christians he knew before he was saved. Specifically, one arrogant person turned him off from wanting to know God. I tremble sometimes, to think of the people I may have turned off in my arrogance, in my floundering that looked like arrogance when I put up a good front faking… Or in my sincerity when they weren’t in a place to hear all the words I have to say about God.

The religious are usually a joke in the media, but it’s an old (pre-pandemic) complaint to dismiss Jesus because of his (professed) followers. And I hear often enough that you only find true acceptable outside the church—because Christians are ignorant sheep and judgemental hypocrites, so Jesus must be a weirdo, too.

If the crazies of an organization were the sole reason not to join ranks, we wouldn’t have any Republicans or Democrats because of the outlying eccentrics. You know—the caricatures who always get highlighted by the opposing side so that your reasoning shuts down, stimulating your flight, fight or freeze response, and to promote better ratings.

I also think we “gooey-touchy-feel” accepted in an echo chamber, so we assume relationships only deepen with commonalities. Agreement is so affirming. The strange thing about being part of the body of Christ is that it merges violently different people into one new group. There is no truer acceptance than in the presence of the God who loves you. The uniquely created, broken you. But that acceptance is in God’s presence, not in a physical location like a church building, and not in a crowd of strangers—no matter what they profess.

There are a couple of things going on in the church environment which cause friction in the “already-but-not-yet” evolution of redemption. Sometimes people in the congregation (even the staff) are barely holding it together. If we congregants are still infants drinking milk, never feeding ourselves, we just show up looking for free grace.

We want to be filled-up quickly, by someone else, and leave better off than we came. I know I’ve done that. It makes a pretty draining environment for the ones serving, though.

This is not a healthy body working together, it’s more like a tumor. But hey, tithes pay them to hold their shit together, right? So that’s what we expect.

Also, most people want the fast food version of redemption, not grace for the long-haul. We even want it for ourselves, so we aren’t always honest about what’s going on. And that might be OK sometimes, because the corporate gathering isn’t for weekly mass vulnerability, unless the Spirit moves.

But these things demonstrate more what is wrong with modern western church practice than what is wrong with Christians themselves.

Nevertheless, it hurts so bad to be rejected, or to feel judged by a someone who professes faith. And it is nearly devastating when the cool clique doesn’t invite you to sit at their table.

Who does sit at the table?

It’s my understanding that sitting at a Rabbi’s feet showed a posture of learning. You were their disciple if you sat at there. This is why it was so significant that Mary, a woman, sat at Jesus’ feet instead of tending the home in the Mary/Martha story.

But Jesus and Mary were also friends. You can see how close Christ was with the whole family, because after Lazarus dies, it is when Mary comes running to him he becomes troubled in his spirit. I used to think that Jesus grieved over Lazarus being dead, but when I read this recently, I felt he grieved because of the pain he saw in his friend’s face.

Picture now, Jesus, the 12, and Lazarus reclining together around the table. I’m sure it was a surreal atmosphere to eat with the man who had been dead for four days. Do you watch him swallow? Do you lean forward to see if he smells? Is he still wearing what he died in?

Previously, Mary sat at Christ’s feet. Now, she understands who he is even more than his disciples do. She anoints Jesus for his death with nard. She leans forward and worships him, and it fills the room with perfume instead of the scent of the meal that was prepared. Her hair spills around her face to hide her from the world, and she grabs handfuls intimately enclosing herself at Christ’s feet. John 12:1-7.

And she probably needed to hide and enclose herself. Men crowded the room while she’s on her knees, she doesn’t belong there. One of them calls out a rebuke. We skim over that when we read it now—because, “Oh, that’s just Judas. He was the betrayer. He was pilfering from the money box. His rebuke was not painful.”

But picture it then, before retrospect legitimized her private worship. Judas was one of the inner circle, one of the chosen 12. She is on the floor as a church leader publicly shames her. And yeah, what about the poor? Why is she so extravagant?

When we shrink back because a religious person has done something damaging toward us, we shouldn’t forget that they could be Judas. They could be refusing every chance to repent while a field of blood waits in their future. Who are we to know?

Your healing, your legitimacy, your sanctification… comes from God. Not his followers. And when we have it, we should seek to contribute to the body, not wait in line for free milk.

Two things

I had to wrestle with this recently. How do I worship God? Is it with the world blocked out, or with one ear tuned to what Judas is saying?

And second, there is a way to identify those who love Jesus—and it isn’t because someone tells you they are a Christian.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35.

2 thoughts on “On the floor, not at the table

  1. Kapri Walsh says:

    Oh my word, to these thoughts I echo a resounding “yes.”

    I needed this today. Thank you for being a willing worker in the body of Christ. You express wonderings in a way I never could and thoughts I didn’t even realize I needed to consider more deeply.

  2. Angela says:

    To live and follow Jesus unashamedly and despite other broken believers’ reaction to me! And to love, regardless if they turn out to be a Judas in disguise! Even Judas could have repented. I don’t want to give up on any horrible so called Christian. Grace is big enough. And Christ in me makes it possible to love. Thank you for again making me sit back and reflect. Like a ship, small movements in navigation over time can have a huge impact at the destination. Thank you for urging us all to check the charts for our course correction!! I love your insights.

Please share your heart. We learn from each other.