My heart is saddened by the news, again. A pastor has resigned from his duties due to “moral failure.” I hurt for the families who are directly impacted. I’m sad for the life challenges and choices that led up to this. I also grieve for the way the enemy uses one person’s sin to make us feel better about our own.
When I hear the news of yet another leader who has failed, I sigh with relief too, as I think, “I’m glad that isn’t me.” Immediately, I’m tempted to be sure that it wouldn’t be me. Couldn’t be me. Never me.
But something happened a few years ago which put me face to face with my own sin, pride, and ugliness. It’s something I’d do well to recall when these reactions surface again.
In 2012 we made a radical decision to foster multiple children. With up to eight in the home at one time, we had the potential to care for a whole lot of kiddos. For each child who might come, we’d receive little information about them, and even then, the information can be highly inaccurate. When you tell the agency yes or no, you think you are picking a child, but really, you are putting yourself out there to receive and welcome a child of any kind.
Because of this, I began to ask myself a hard question every where I went. I’d look around at the store, the park, a restaurant, church, anywhere, and wonder, could I love this child?
I found myself challenged so much that I almost lost hope of doing well as a foster mom. I found myself thinking, “Surely, that wouldn’t be me.” It’s easier to desire what seems lovely on the outside, whether it’s appearance or mannerisms, it’s not so easy to love what doesn’t. If I was going to love like Jesus loved, I would need Jesus working in me a whole lot.
In the gospel of Luke, chapter 22 reminds me of my own tendencies and how desperately I need continued heart transformation. I know the stories, but this time I read with the intent to go deeper.
Here, Jesus gathers the disciples together for a passover meal and announces that one of them will betray him. The disciples are perplexed.
“And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” – Luke 22:23
Surely, they were dismayed and shocked that anyone would betray their master, the Teacher. Even more, that it would be one of them. Wouldn’t be me. Couldn’t be me. Never me.
Immediately after this verse the story shifts. First, they are concerned with the deplorable actions of one, next they are arguing, because surely one of them is the best of all of them.
How similarly and frequently we engage in the same. How often I engage in this every time I say, “Surely, not me.”
In the disciples pursuit to figure out who would betray Jesus they sought to know that they were better. When we say, “Well, at least I didn’t do that,” we’re looking for some way to prove our worth based on what we do or don’t do.
“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” – Luke 22:24
The ESV version says they sought who would be “regarded as the greatest.” Other versions say; accounted (KJV), considered (NIV), considered and reputed (AMP), thought to be (NIRV), and seem to be (GNV) – the greatest. An argument ensued because they wrongly believed that how they are known by others in this world would be the same as how they are known by the One who created the world.
This whole chapter in Luke shows us the suffering Jesus knew was coming and the rejection he experienced, even among the ones who gathered with him. Despite this, in verse 15 he tells his disciples that he “earnestly longs” to eat the passover meal with them. He longed to celebrate the kingdom of God with those closest to him, even though one would betray him, another deny him, and the majority would be unphased by his agony when he prayed for them. Meanwhile, like little children the disciples argued who would be known as the greatest.
Jesus’ response was to teach and model the way of greatness through service and sacrifice. Despite what he knew of the deplorable actions ahead, he loved them and cared for them. He showed them the way to be great by serving with humility.
God knows how we continually seek to prove our self-worth based on our works, or seeming lack of sin, yet, Jesus desires to fellowship with us. He desires us to commune with him in fellowship and with one another. All of us, sinners, are called to gather around the table of communion.
Yes, even me. Especially me.
I want to recline at the table with Jesus. I want to know that I wouldn’t be the betrayer, the denier or the apathetic one. I want to know that I am considered great. But, I fail. I keep looking at what I do rather than what he did.
Every time I say, “Surely, not me,” it’s an attempt to make myself seem the greatest. Instead, I become the selfish, defiant, whining child. My heart is saddened by the news of others’ sin because of the hurt and consequences that go with it.
Because it could be me. Too often it is me.
We’re all sinners in need of the One who endured suffering and served willingly. May we look at others as Jesus did and as he continues to do. May we remember that it could be us. And when it comes to being a sinner, it is us.
May we, like Jesus, offer service and humility at the table where we all gather.
“…by eating together as a reconciled community through the cross.” ~ Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus