Let me say this, I believe that the recognition of our sinfulness is essential to our relationship with God. It is imperative for us to see ourselves in relationship to a holy God. This reflection on our own life lets us identify with Paul when he says, “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is essential that we see that we are people in need of redemption in order to be restored in the image of God.
I have said all that, so I can say this: We do a good job of making others aware of their own sinfulness. Maybe too good of a job.I say that because I think as a church we are more known as what we are against than what we are for. I do believe that we should be a church that is strongly opposed to sin, and we are stand against those things, which do not stand for a life hidden with Christ in God. I would guess that more unchurched people would identify the church as a group of people against stuff than a group of people for someone.
As with most things, we make think that this is a new situation brought upon by our American religous culture, but this goes all the way back to…. The Old Testament. Let’s go to 1 Kings 17:8-25. We have just been introduced to Elijah, the rain-down-fire and hear God in a whisper Elijah. Before he does any of those things, God tells him to go Zarephath and meet a widow who will feed him. Apparently he was hungry, so he went. He meet the widow and through the power of God, they ate from a never-ending jar and drank from a never-ending jug. Pretty cool, but we have to move on.
He stayed there for a while, and one day she (we are never told her name) brings her son who has no breath in him. Verse 18 tells us, “She then said to Elijah, ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” Elijah then takes her son, prays and cries over him to God, who then revives the boy and God heals him and brings life into this young man. So Elijah brings the son down to her mother and she says to him (verse 24), “So the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
Pretty neat story. I want to focus on the 2 quotes of the unnamed widow. The first one, ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” She recognizes the Elijah is a man of God. Because of the witness of his life, she sees that he is from God. Part of that witness, must have led her to the conclusion that she is a sinner. His holy life made her recognize that she had fallen short of the glory of God, but she also connected his being there for the death of her son. She might have recognized her own sinfulness, but she didn’t connect God with
Quote 2, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” Even though she knew that Elijah was a man of God, it was not until he brought life that she made the connection that this God was also Lord! Elijah’s God was not just somebody who remind her of how she had sin, but now this God had brought life. Praise be to God that he does not just remind us of how we are not God, but instead infuses our life with his life. Jesus says in John 15 that, “I have said these things so that my joymay be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” God does not want us to wallow in our brokenness, but that he wants us to live a life empowered by his grace and goodness.
I think people don’t like Christians because they see and hear what we are against, but they do not always know or experience who we are for: God, the Father Almighty, Jesus, Messiah of the World, and the Holy Spirit, sustainer of life.
It is strange that in this grand tale about Elijah, that we would find this little story about a poor widow woman, after all Elijah has kings and prophets to worry about. But yet God calls him to this woman’s house to bring life to it. We often get so worried about our own versions of kings and prophets that we ignore the widows we are called to. These are the folks who need the Good News, who need a God to call Lord, who need to simply experience the love that God has for them, and who knows maybe then they would like us after all.