One Saturday over Thai food (because obviously) an old friend and I were talking about life and death and God and pain. Ya know, typical Saturday lunch talk. Our convo centered mostly on the church and our experience with who the church, in general, tells us God is. I asked my friend to describe Jesus in one word. While she thought on it, I offered mine: scandalous.
Jesus is scandalous. Think about it. He hung out with the strippers and alcoholics and con artists of His day. Not only that, He called the good, church going folk a bag of dead bones. Can you imagine??? Pastor Judah Smith nailed it when he said “Jesus is socially frustrating!” He straight up doesn’t play by any of the rules. He leaves the table of the important people to go hang out with those who don’t do such a good job of covering up their pain. Jesus goes looking for the broken.
A friend at my Baptist college said to me one day “I believe Jesus would go to a bar and drink a beer with somebody just to have the opportunity to tell them He loves them.” I was appalled! I mean, really?!?! Jesus? In a bar? My 21 year old self thought this probably bordered on blasphemy. Now, I can’t say for sure that this is what Jesus would do, but I have seen Him show up in places much seedier than a bar. Like to a coke addict who sold her body to feed her addiction. To an alcoholic who beat his wife in front of his children. To a shopping addict who went thru her family’s entire savings and her children’s college funds.
Luke 19:10 says
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.”
In Mark 2:17, Jesus tells us Himself “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus shows up in some pretty scandalous places. He doesn’t shy away from messy. He just walks in, speaks directly to the heart and says “I love you. Let’s do things differently.” One word from the Lord can change someone’s world. It is the only thing powerful enough to break thru the lies. And the reason He has to show up is because most of the time, we are too buried in our shame to go to Him.
Shame is the language of the enemy. The warm wash of shame covers us and tells us we are bad. It tells us we are not enough. Dr. Brene' Brown's research found that for women, shame tells us we must be able to do it all, do it all perfectly and never let ‘em see us sweat. It sets a standard of perfection that is unattainable and then mocks us for missing the mark. Shame pushes us into isolation and then confirms our suspicion that no one else is as big of a screw up as we are. Why, in these moments, would we risk vulnerability with other humans who just might confirm the worst things we believe about ourselves? Even more so, why would we dare go into the presence of a holy God and risk the ultimate rejection?
That, my sisters, is why Jesus is so scandalous. He knows we are buried too deep in our shame to come out so He comes in. He walks into the middle of the mess and speaks to the very things we are trying to hide. Jesus calls out the hurts, habits and hang ups in our lives and says “give them to Me, child. I have more for you than this because I love you.” Don’t believe me? Check the good book.
Jesus met the woman at the well and offered her living water. He didn’t offer her marriage advice because He knew her 5 ex-husbands and her live-in boyfriend weren’t the real issue. Another reason Jesus is scandalous is that He would much rather change our heart than our behavior. When our hearts are right, our behavior will follow. It is the natural course of events. It is why He always goes straight for the heart. True change only comes from the inside out. Anything else is just a phase. Jesus knew our sweet sister collecting water needed to know she was enough.
That’s why He shows up in the middle of our mess too. It’s not to tell us to straighten up and fly right. It’s not to point out all the ways we could do better. It’s not even to change us. Jesus shows up to tell us He loves us. He shows up to tell us that we are enough. And He knows that once we believe Him, everything changes.