When Elaine and I left Moncton years ago, there was all the normal hoopla. There were those saying their good bye’s who wished us well and others who were likely happy to see us go. It was hard to say good bye to the former but we were also happy to say so long to the latter.
Steve Trueman, a.k.a. “Tin Man”, one of the finest men that I know, a gloriously imperfect follower of Christ, was conscripted to “say a few words” at our final gathering. Steve and I ran together for years, faced heartaches and victories side by side and collected an incredible array of mythical adventures that have since developed a life of their own.
He had a carefully prepared “roast“, professionally glazed and embellished that he served up that evening with incredible delight. Even as the main dish, I admired his offering and the enjoyment that it gave him.
Afterward, he confessed that he had forgotten a critical ingredient. I was an “Associate” pastor by then. One of Webster’s nuanced meanings of the word “associate” is to “hang around“. Steve had missed the opportunity to publicly ponder the nature of my job description for the 14 years that I spent there. Webster provided his posit. I was “hanging around” or associating. That was my job.
They accused Jesus of the same. He also was an Associate Pastor. He associated, hung around with sinners. They never accused him of hanging around with the religious elite. The self-righteous particularly tried his patience. He had very little time and less commendation for them.
He hung around with sinners. This was where he was at his best.
I don’t think they were projects for Him. My feeling is that He simply loved them. There is nothing so redemptive as the love of Christ, even more than His words perhaps. If there is one thing that the religious traffic in … it is words. Words … words … words … words and more words.
But when it comes to redemptive love, religion is bankrupt. We have spent so much time talking that we have forgotten how to love as Christ loved. Given the choice, our words will always take precedence. We are more concerned about being right than being loving. We are more convinced that the world needs right words than right loving. That is likely because we believe that the eternal fate of people is more on our shoulders than His.
Our denominational tag line used to be, “to propagate the doctrine of scriptural holiness“. Word pushers. We did propagate our doctrine well. We just forgot how to love, how to “hang out” with sinners.
Too bad …