‘Purposing Change’ Meditations: 5. Challenge the ‘Normal’
Mt 12:13 “Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.”
This was a man with a shrivelled hand in a synagogue (v.9,10). The religious people accepted that as the norm but it limited this man and Jesus had come to change that. The fact that he was allowed to be there meant that the people accepted him as he was, which was good, but the problem with accepting people (and ourselves) as they are, means we may be robbing them of something so much better.
The truth is that we may accept our loved one exactly as they are, which is good, but if they don’t know the Lord, there is a question mark over their eternal destiny and they are missing out now on what the Lord wants to bring to them – now. We may faithfully hold on to our loved ones who are prodigals, who have gone away from the Lord, and we may truly have a loving relationship with them and enjoy them when they are around, and we turn a blind eye to their unbelief because of that, but the truth is they are missing out.
A part of our family is in this position, church did them no favours and so they stopped going. Their commendable integrity said ‘Our church experience leaves big question marks’ and so they stepped away, and one couldn’t blame them. They remain good people, kind people, and so much more, but they don’t have the comfort, strengthening, encouraging and assurance of that living relationship with God. As so often happens, drifting from church soon means drifting from God.
In each of these cases we have suggested – of loved ones living in unbelief, of prodigals in the family – for the sake of maintaining relationships of love, we often stay silent for fear of causing a breakdown of the relationship. We tolerate their lack, just like the people on the synagogue tolerated the man with a withered arm.
Part of the problem of the people I have cited is that they appear happy in their state and would justify it – I can’t believe what you believe, or I don’t want the church experience you tolerate – so we remain silent and they miss out. Do we want them to return to a second rate church experience? No, we want them to come back to God. Do we want them to have the same religious experience we’ve had? No, we want them to have something better. I confess there have been times when I have remained silent with unbelievers because in the back of my mind has run the thought: “Suppose they turn to Christ. Would I want to take them to my present church and enter a life of legalism and performance? No.” And so I stayed quiet. It was a key reason we left a previous church when my wife uttered for the umpteenth time, “This church doesn’t want unbelievers, it won’t welcome our unsaved friends,” and so we eventually moved on to a more welcoming church.
So often we accept the situation as it is, but Jesus wants to bring change. We do it so often because we tolerate, accept, and put up with the position as it is because we cannot envisage anything different. Who do we know who is living an impaired, limited life, a life that does not know the freedom and the wonder of the life Jesus has come to bring? Can we start asking him to open our eyes to see such people in our midst whose plight we have tolerated, who he wants to reach? Can we ask him to help us see them changed? Can we ask him to start releasing believing prayer in us for them, to create faith that sees past the concerns of “What if?” and leaves their outworked future in His hands?