Who Cares What Simon Says

photo credit: leo.jeje @ creative commons
photo credit: leo.jeje @ creative commons

My pastor talked a couple weeks ago about the story recorded in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to a party, uninvited, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. She then lavished her expensive perfume upon his feet. Simon, the host of the party and a Pharisee (church leader of the day), assumed that Jesus must not be a prophet because if he were, he would know what a sinner the woman was. His assumption was that if Jesus knew this woman was a prostitute, he would reject her. Certainly Simon would have.

 

But Simon was wrong on all counts. Not only did Jesus know what she did for a living, he knew that her heart had been changed by her faith in him. He knew that she was a new woman on the inside and he forgave her for her sins. Simon had no idea what was going on in the woman’s heart. He never would have known because he absolutely would never have allowed himself to be seen with her long enough to find out.

 

As I thought back on this story today I wondered how many walking wounded we have in our churches every Sunday. How many men and women have messed up their lives, fully acknowledged their sin, been forgiven by God…but still feel wounded because “the church” in general still sees them as a sinner? (Aren’t we all?)

 

When we make a mess of our lives, the church should be the first place we find comfort but often times people like this withdraw from everything…including the church. Because if their sin has been made public or has spread through the gossip circles, they get the same side-ways glances and hushed tones there that they might get at the grocery store or the soccer field. Too often, they aren’t made to feel loved and welcomed. Because too many times “the church” acts like Simon instead of Jesus. 

Photo credit: Lel4nd @ creative commons
Photo credit: Lel4nd @ creative commons

 

Now, this is not true of all churches. When I say “the church” I mean it in a general sense…any organized religious group. But all churches have one thing in common…they are populated by humans. And humans will disappoint.

 

Has this happened to you? If it hasn’t yet it’s just a matter of time. At some point, a human in a church will let you down. Bank on it. We all mess up. But just because you have been hurt by someone in a church doesn’t mean you’ve been hurt by God.

 

We can ascribe God-like characteristics to the church. But we really shouldn’t ascribe church-like characteristics to God. We get all turned upside down when we do that. God sees the parts of us that no one else does. He knows if we are truly sorry for our sins even if the woman on the second pew doesn’t. God is Jesus, not Simon.

 

So, if you are being a Simon; stop it. You don’t know all that’s going on in people’s lives. We are simply called to love God and love others. If you’re showing Jesus’s love to people who have walked (or crawled) through life-altering lessons, keep it up! And if you’re the woman with the perfume; hold your head up, let Jesus dry your tears and don’t worry about what Simon says.

Would you like a drink with that?

I have a feeling this one’s gonna get me in trouble. But I’m going to be real and honest cuz that’s my number one rule for this blog. I have to be real or it’s just a bunch of hot air. Here’s the thing…I just don’t understand the “Traditional Christian” view that it’s wrong to drink alcohol.

Now before you send me an angry email, let me clarify. I completely understand the idea that it’s not Christian to get drunk and I’m not condoning getting smashed. People do stupid things when they are drunk and I’m not a fan. But as with so many things, it seems that the church in general over-reacts and throws the baby out with the bath water. This can make us look self-righteous and judgmental.

It’s not just with drinking. I know there are churches that frown on dancing, playing cards and rock music. Are we not intelligent enough to figure out what is harmful and what is not without banning it all? If I want to play Rummy with my friends, is that equal to losing my life savings playing Poker? If I dance with my friends at a wedding is that the equivalent of dirty dancing? And while we’re at it, how insane is it to say that the beat of a song makes it evil? I will totally agree that there are some lyrics out there that are evil. But I will never concede that a drum beat is evil.

Where is the emphasis on personal responsibility? As a believer, I should be responsible enough to make right choices, not because I’m worried about what others think or I’m trying to fit into a certain mold. I should make good choices simply because I love Jesus and therefore want to please him. Because I don’t want to do anything that will disappoint him. But I don’t believe that having a glass of wine or a martini with my dinner will do that. I think he’s cool with it.

Now, if I had been a binge drinker in college or if I had gotten a DUI, then I should be responsible enough to choose not to drink. Or, if I’m out to dinner with someone who’s had an issue with abusing alcohol, I should be sensitive enough to drink a coke instead so that I don’t make it difficult for them to do the right thing.

I believe there is a big difference between something that is a sin (think Ten Commandments…don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, etc.) and something that is not a sin but if abused could lead to sin (think drinking alcohol, dancing, playing cards, etc.). I think it’s way more important to teach young people to make wise choices than it is to give them a list of banned activities.

At this point, some of you may be really disgusted with me. But you may also be surprised to learn that I’m intimately acquainted with the pain caused by alcohol abuse. I grew up with it. I saw the dysfunction that it can cause in a family. But I still don’t think that means that no one should drink alcohol. I think people shouldn’t abuse it. There is a difference. Some people drive their cars way too fast and cause accidents. Does that mean no one should drive a car?

Certainly, if you’ve abused alcohol in the past, you should stay away from it. Any substance or activity that you have used to self-medicate is an issue. It’s an indication that you need God to heal you. Ideally, he should be our medication. When we are sad or scared we should run to him…not food, alcohol, sex or any other cheap substitute for his love. In the end, he is the only one who will truly satisfy.

I don’t write this because I want someone to give me permission to drink. I’m not concerned about it, personally. If I want to have a drink, I’ll have a drink. I’ve never been drunk and don’t expect I ever will be. I don’t feel that I’ve missed out by not getting drunk. I’ve seen drunk people…they do stupid things and I don’t like to be stupid. I’m fine with my one drink. I write this because I know of so many people who find the typical church view on this to be puzzling and often hypocritical but it seems that no one says anything about it. They just keep their opinions to themselves or grumble about it behind closed doors. They, like me, don’t grumble about it because they want to get drunk. They just want to be given the opportunity to make wise choices without feeling like they are going against “church policy.”

I don’t expect the church as a whole (and I’m not talking about any specific church…just to be clear) to change their stance because I wrote a blog about this. It’s just something that has bothered me for years. And after discussing it with some friends tonight, I just want to get it off my chest. Comment if you dare! 😉 If you agree, share this on your fb page. If you disagree, please understand, I don’t pretend that I have everything figured out. Maybe there’s some part of this equation that I’m missing. Enlighten me if you can, or we can agree to love each other but disagree. Either way, I’d love to start some conversation on this one.

Love,

rebekah

 

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