The ball bearing securing and smoothing the fast spinning wheel of a speeding vehicle. A carabineer that is the lone connection tethering the mountain climber to the safety of ropes and rocks. Or the tiny lever that drives the hammer of a grand piano against the strings in perfect response to the pressure of the players’ fingers on the key. Tiny. Precise. Easily overlooked. Often forgotten. Unless it’s missing. Then its necessity becomes evident. Very evident. And immediately! Like that Little Wedge.
Think of how many important things completely depend on something small and easily overlooked. Like that Little Wedge. It has been such a small part of my thinking, yet absolutely crucial. Strangely, however, I find that I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about it... or doing something with it. Even the diagram tends to under-emphasize its importance. After all, it’s the Little Wedge. And it’s what Jesus came to deal with.
As I’ve said before, I’ve been a part of church life for all of my days. My mom took my siblings and me to church from the time we were born. Literally. And we were a part. We were adopted. We felt comfortable there. We were in the family. We served. And we belonged.
So being deeply involved in any endeavor for that long would typically make you an expert on how it works and on what’s crucial to its health. Or maybe not.
The problem with church life is that, while we may truly know and believe what God had in mind for us, we still find ourselves modifying church to our liking, even if it ends up being not very much like what He had in mind! Yeah, I’m that guy. It’s so easy to get distracted from the original intent that you could spend most of a lifetime not noticing. Or being unwilling to change it back because you really like it better the way it is. Yeah. I’m that guy, too.
So, about that Little Wedge, the one labeled, “Dead”. Beside it being a rather abrupt word, inclining me to find a word to soften it up a bit, I’m realizing it hasn’t really bothered me too much that there is a pervasive condition of spiritual deadness that haunts the human soul. As I reflect on it, I’m thinking it should be bothering me a bit more... or even a lot! As unpleasant as it is, the real contrast of ‘dead’ and ‘alive’ divides the eternal landscape rather starkly. And it’s pretty much the whole reason for God’s cosmic intervention into human history, described in mind-blowing scope and detail from Genesis 3 through Revelation 22.
So, I’m asking myself why it’s not bugging me more. As I pondered, I sensed a couple of answers that were neither pleasant nor flattering (the Holy Spirit can be pesky if you ask). First, I realized that my comfortable church tendencies (as described above) tend to make reaching seem like a chore, since the folks who are currently ‘out’ might be a bit messy and irreligious, unaware of the polite and planned (sterile?) family life I like. I’m pretty familiar with helping other Christians grow toward maturity. Secondly, I realized that genuine outreach requires caring, which means setting aside time and emotional capacity. In other words, self sacrifice. Caring is like that because it inherently gives, even when there is no assurance of interest or reciprocation.
Lastly, and probably most telling, I recognized that my lack of concern was rooted in my misunderstanding of how God is working. My selfish ‘chore’ mentality gets me all wound up with expectations and responsibilities, all of which tend to gratify my pride and deflate my compassion. If all I can comprehend is the heaven/hell outcomes, my mind gets religious and I end up calloused. Their sin (not mine, of course) is a real put off to God! They just might deserve it! (Note the sarcasm, in case you missed it).
When Jesus describes his mission to a ‘dead’ world, his purpose is clear: He is here to reconnect people to the source code of ‘life’. This is found only in the Heavenly Father. And it’s accessed not through traditional religious means, which tend to obligate God to do our bidding if we promise to diligently obey whatever ritual or deeds are prescribed for the ‘faithful’. Get yourself cleaned up, stop doing all those bad things, love your neighbor and God will have no choice but to let you into heaven. Right!?
Jesus answered this mentality by pulling back the curtain and giving us a glimpse of what was really on the Father’s heart: Them. The outsiders. The folks who don’t know the Father. The walking dead. No religious test needed. Life wasn’t a commodity for marketeers or a slogan to cheer the faithful, it was found by reconnecting with the only source of true life: The Father. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Father was always at work to bring this about! Life now. While we still walk the earth. Not just someday in heaven, but right now.
Which changes everything in my perspective, because now I’m a walking conduit of the Father’s outreach. Wow! The ‘chore’ becomes an adventure! I go from trying to muster the energy to trudge forward to simply watching and listening for opportunities to join the Father in His quest to reconnect with them. No sales experience will help. No need to figure out how to clean up their sin problems in advance, since the Father clearly has plans for that once they’re adopted!
So relax. And get ready. We’re in the ‘life’ business for real!
Working through the process of being the man Jesus intentioned for me... while we work through the process of becoming the church Jesus intentioned for us to be