I’ve been here before: in that place where darkness settles overhead, hovering in ominous, cloud-like presence. Feeling the weight of it all. Wondering if I will ever be free from the burden of guilt, the oppression.
Guilt. It covers. Blinds. Leaves me groping in the dark for some comforting safe harbor. That is the burden of blame. It mocks the soul. Telling the spirit it is unworthy, unfit. Speaking lies to the heart. Keeping the seeker from finding refuge. From finding hope.
All in the name of holiness. Righteousness. Godliness.
And sometimes this heavy weight is not solely of my own making: it comes honestly, partially by the hands and feet of other well-meaning truth-seekers. Or are their hurtful comments really well-meaning? I see the fingers pointing. I see the backward glances, the self-righteous ‘looking-down-the-nose’ at me. The stares, the condescending glares. And not at me only…I am outwardly one of the good ones. What of those who are not so stereotypically religious in lifestyle? Are they treated with more disdain than even this?
I have to put it out there. “What makes some Christians think they are so much better?”
We Christians put words in God’s mouth sometimes, unwisely thinking we speak the truth to those who are at our listening mercy. We spout our agenda: that God wants us to come to Him, but in squeaky clean condition. He cannot look upon sin. And we tell people, “Come! (But don’t be dirty…change first: this is a Black Tie Event!)” And it is as if being a Christian means being hoity-toity. Because anyone can come, so long as they are patched up first. In tip-top condition. That anyone can come, so long as they first be purified. That anyone can come, but clothed in good deeds. That anyone can come, so long as they are found presentable.
But Jesus just says to come. Just as we are. Whatever we are. Whoever we are. And that simply means in our natural state, whatever that might be: uninterested, disengaged, disillusioned, disenchanted. Frustrated, fed-up, feeling hopeless. Angry, jaded, washed up. Hurt. Stressed-out. Strung-out.
That means users, alkies, druggies, convicts. They can come. Just as they are. That means heterosexual and homosexual. Come. Just as you are. You don’t come to Jesus fixed up. You simply come. It is not our job to fix people up for Jesus, making them clean enough for the church. If we are good enough for Jesus, we are more than good enough for the church.
Jesus just wants people to come. Broken, messed-up, just as they are. Come.
This is that old hymn with those timeless words: Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come! Just as I am, and waiting not, To rid my soul of one dark blot; To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, though tossed about, With many a conflict, many a doubt; Fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind; Yes, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come! Just as I am, Thy love unknown Has broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
And I cannot help but wonder, do we believe these words? That God welcomes us, just as we are? Just as we are, He will welcome us? With open, outstretched arms? Unwashed? Unclean? We don’t have to be perfect first? Can it be?
He will. And yes, He does. He wants us, indeed He loves us. Just as we are.