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Against the grain of Christianity

My cousin shared a video with the family of her visit to a distillery. My face must have gone ghost white when I saw her stick her finger into a vat of pure alcohol. “And they let you drink this?!” I blurted out, disgusted. She laughed. She explained to me as she played the video that this moonshine is concentrated and pure. Putting your finger in a vat of water or juice or anything else would contaminate the batch. Putting your finger in pure moonshine actually purified your finger. It has no effect on the purity of the alcohol.

The life of Jesus went against the grain of church culture. It began in controversy, his mother being unmarried and pregnant. I often have asked God why he would choose to do something like this. God took his sweet servant, Mary, who did not deserve to be shamed or judged, and gave her a “blessing” in the form of a child out of wedlock. Within culture, this may have been forgivable, but within the church, this was blatant sin.

Jesus then had a ministry that put him in the middle of sinners. Tax collectors, prostitutes, and drunks. These were his friends and companions. The Pharisees had a lot of reason to pass judgement here. Who can truly blame them for considering Jesus blasphemous? A man who spends all of his time with sinners is claiming to be God. No, our church these days would be in uproar too.

The Samaritan woman at the well is one of my favorite examples of this. In this culture, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not address women in public. Yet here is Jesus, blatantly defying cultural norms, to have a conversation with and minister to a person.

God does not care about what we deem as culturally acceptable, even within a church. As a church, we need to be careful about confusing our prejudices for Gods word. What legalism calls sin, God called his Son. We all want the story to always look perfect. That is human nature. That is not Gods nature. God is the one though who makes them perfect. I challenge you to re-examine the story, next time you are tempted to judge. Is this sin or is this culture charading as Gods word.

Mind you, I am not excusing sin. Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the patterns of this world. It says to test and approve what God’s will is. This means using discernment. Take your concerns to the Lord. Let Him be the judge in the matter. Confirm it through His Word. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “”Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.” Sometimes what is not sin for you can cause a brother or sister to sin, so discernment is crucial.

Especially in our Christian community, we want everything to look perfect, for the sake of the world we minister too. Yes, the motivation is good, but the execution needs help.

Romans 3:22-24 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

I did not plan for my story to turn out as it did. I had a much prettier story to write and tell. I rehearsed and memorized it. I was certain it would come to pass, because God had promised it. What I failed to realize was that my plan of action to get from here to there was not Gods. The way God took me was messy. It didn’t come out looking spotless and clean. Yes, He kept his promise, but it looks pretty messy actually, which is frustrating to someone who wants to spin a good tale. But when I take a good look at this mess of a story and how God got me from trapped to free, I couldn’t have written it better myself. This mess is beautiful and Gods hand is all over it.

Like Mary’s unplanned and out of wedlock pregnancy. Like Jesus spending all of his time with tax collectors, drunks, and prostitutes. Like the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus does not care about what is culturally acceptable inside the walls of the church. He takes all of our imperfect messes. Like sticking your dirty finger in a well of pure moonshine, when we reach for Jesus and Jesus touches us, He makes us clean.

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