Address The Mess Part 2: The Best Mess Ever
On Sunday 8th January at our morning service,we continued our new series 'Address The Mess' with the topic 'The Best Mess Ever'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
Sometimes in life we go through seasons that are really tough. Perhaps you can recall some times when life has felt like a really big mess – maybe right now is one of those times.
Whether you are or have been in a mess physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or perhaps in a financial, relational or occupational mess, it’s sometimes the case that the worst messes we find ourselves in turn out to be the best messes ever in the long run.
Of course it doesn’t feel that way at the time! Sometimes a “blessing in disguise” has a really, really good disguise and just feels like an irredeemable mess. But… sometimes God uses our messes to teach and train us, and sometimes when we mess up, give up and finally look up… that’s when God shows up, big-time!
Sometimes the messes in which we find ourselves are of our own making – we can behave badly, wrongly, or unwisely but sometimes our messes seem just to happen to us through no fault of our own. Still… when we’re in a mess, we can make matters worse through our behaviours (and perhaps stay in a mess longer than we need to) or we can behave in wise, appropriate and humble ways that may just help us out of the mess.
Either way, we can be sure that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect – he knows we’ll mess up and he’s made provision for that fact by sending Jesus to atone for our mistakes.
A few years ago I heard a great phrase “engagement is not endorsement”. A U.S. government official was explaining why the government was “talking to terrorists” in Palestine and he used that phrase – engagement is not endorsement and it struck me as profound. There are many behaviours we may see or hear about that we don’t approve of, don’t endorse, but should that always stop us from ever engaging with the people concerned?
Clearly, God wants to engage with us, even though he doesn’t endorse some of our behaviours. But he goes much further. Engagement is not endorsement… and here’s a new phrase I’m claiming… Atoning is not condoning. Jesus atones for our behaviour, though he does not condone our behaviour.
The free gift of His atonement for us is simply to be accepted – and we accept it by accepting and following Him.
This is explained by Jesus’s close friend John, one of His earliest followers, and we can read John’s account of Jesus’s life in the New Testament part of the bible. In chapter 3, verses 16 to 21 of the book John wrote about Jesus, he describes this gift of grace, this atonement for our wrongdoings. You can read this by clicking here.
This continues in John Chapter 8 verse12. You can read this by clicking here.
In the four accounts of Jesus’s life, which we call the Gospels, we can find example after example of Jesus inviting people to follow Him and time after time He goes to people who are in a mess and lights the way.
He invited simple fishermen to follow him. “Come follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” he said to Simon Peter and Andrew, and then invited the brothers James and John – and they followed him.
Matthew, a hated tax collector was sitting at his booth and Jesus said “follow me”. Another despised tax collector, Zaccheus, is approached by Jesus – and Jesus invites himself to this corrupt man’s house for a meal… and totally changes his life!
A woman is about to be stoned for adultery – Jesus intervenes and does not judge her but tells her to “go and sin no more”.
A Samaritan woman at a well, her life steeped in sin - Jesus has compassion on her.
People with all manner of problems – just the kinds of problems you and I might face – find a compassionate Jesus going to them and lighting up the way for them. Our behaviours get us into a mess but our behaviours are not the thing God cares most about. What he cares about is our having a relationship with Him! Any loving parent would say the same – it’s the loving relationship that matters. The sins, the messes – we can forgive those as long as… because of… the loving relationship.
God atones even if He doesn’t condone. Jesus lights the way out of our mess and says “follow me”.
Further, our own messes equip us to understand, and to help someone in the same mess.
Jesus said people would know his followers by their love for one another. (John 13:35). And he said we were to love our neighbour. Might you be the hands and feet of Jesus, leading someone out of the mess you once were in? Might there be a blessing to be had from the mess you once experienced?
Our challenge is to be Jesus’s hands and feet, be the light that helps lead people out of the hole in which they find themselves and one day, perhaps, leads them to the one and only light of the world, Jesus himself.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you messed up, gave, up, looked up… and God showed up?
2. In what ways can being a follower of Jesus help us when we’re in a mess?
3. Do you agree that Jesus engaged with people even though He didn’t necessarily endorse their behaviour?
4. What present day people or groups do Christians sometimes refuse to engage with and why? Is this the right thing to do?
5. What tough experiences have you (or someone you know) had which you/they were later able to use to help someone else in the same kind of mess?
6. What do you think Jesus meant when He declared ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’?
7. Are any of the things you are doing, or refusing to do, getting or keeping you in a mess? If so, what could you do differently in light of Jesus’s words and example?