Those of us who purpose to act as agents of God’s love for a world in need aren’t saints. I would hope that that would go without saying, but I’m not sure it does. Even though I have decided that living a radical life of love for others is the best thing going and I fail all the time.
All the time.
Sometimes a friend will see me walking to the grocery store to save fuel, or practicing Sabbath, or attempting to redistribute the mismatched plastic ware containers belonging to all 272 families at my kids’ elementary school, and he or she may think that I might be a little more…righteous…than she is. Somehow said friend has gotten the wrong impression that I’m some sort of discipleship superhero. Sometimes she will even comment to that effect. And if the friend happens to be someone who drives an automobile, who works on Sunday, or who—gasp—uses individually packaged single-serving foods whenever possible, the friend may mistakenly believe that I’ve got some saintly gene that makes me better equipped to live out love for God’s world in need.
This friend clearly has no idea what can happen when I accidentally stumble into Walmart even though I try really hard not to.
Anyone close to me will attest that I’m just as selfish as anyone else. (Though I’d prefer that my husband did not make any public statements to this effect.) And though I may not be as tempted as the next human to drink pricey coffee, or renovate my home more than is technically necessary, or buy way-too-pricey seats at the Super Bowl, I still do go weak in the knees in my favorite fabric store.
Those of us who have purposed to love the big world God loves are, clearly, the usual garden variety of sinners. The only thing that makes us any different from the other veggies in the garden is that when we do sin—when we do something we swore we’d never do, when we once felt so self-righteous about the fact that we’d never do it, and then find ourselves doing it—we choose to pivot from our sin. We turn. We confess. We get forgiven. We start again with a fresh slate. Then, inevitably, we end up sinning again.
It’s the pattern with which I am way too familiar.
So, I’m pretty sure that we’ve established that I’m a sinner. If you didn’t get that, I think you may just not be paying attention. I’m a grade-A sinner.
“Really? They let sinners join the Partnering-With-God-To-Change-The-World Club?!”
Yup, it’s true. This is what I’m telling you. They do. Which is not to say that I haven’t tried to get off the hook by playing the big ol’ sinner card.
How it went for awhile, in my mind, was that God had created a race of holy rollers who were genetically predisposed to doing really fantastic world-changing things. These were those amazing superheroes like Rosa Parks, Oscar Romero, Steven Biko and Dorothy Day. Because if I could just kind of keep imagining them in a little Super Bubble, of other really holy rollers who did big stuff to change the world, then I’d sort of be off the hook. Since I clearly didn’t get that gene.
For instance, I practiced this neat little party trick while reading Shane’s yummy Irresistible Revolution. And since I’d never hung out with Mother Teresa, and since I’d never thrown wads of cash out of windows on Wall Street, and since I’d never lived in an intentional Christian community for years on end, I probably wasn’t in that elite race of Super Christians who did great big stuff with God to change the world.
See how handy this can be?
As you begin to notice this naughty little voice, you’re on the right track. I hope this isn’t coming as news, but you’re not supposed to be Shane Claiborne. You’re supposed to be you, living out God’s big love for a world in need right where you are.
Now you know. Consider yourself responsible for the information.
Margot Starbuck is a communicator who writes and speaks about kingdom living, God’s heart for the poor, body image, edgy love & other fresh ideas. She’s convinced that because God is with us and for us in Jesus Christ, Christians are set free to live love that is for others, especially those who live on the world’s margins. This is kind of Margot’s big thing. Margot lives in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC, with her husband, Peter, and their three kids by birth and adoption. At Reality Ministries, she shares life among friends with and without disabilities. A graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Seminary, Margot is ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA.