When I read the Gospels, I encounter a Jesus who proclaims peace for the fringe dwellers. Indistinct and frequently offensive, they reached for his cloak, cried out in desperation, or fell forward to make contact with real love. Convention would treat them as nonpersons, insisting they be kept barely visible and hidden behind a veil of shame. But Jesus was unconventional.
Life’s losers sense this. They crash the party and find themselves not only accepted, but favored and blessed as well. With Jesus, they get the seats of honor.
For someone with as many opportunities as I’ve been given, I still fail and find myself letting down the people I love the most. Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone.” And after half a century lived, I’m still broken in bewildering ways. Blessed are the disheveled, the wild-eyed, the not-so-together, the social misfits—those who throw all reputation and pride aside just to get close, and who, after getting close, are swept into an embrace they never expected and knew they never deserved.
I clean up well, but deep down I know this is me. For as long as I live, I will find myself running secretly from the dim fringes into the light of day at the sound of Jesus’ voice. At that moment I become, mysteriously, an insider. No moral outrage when Jesus leans back and lets a prostitute wash his feet with her tears. No moral outrage when Jesus fails to rebuke her for breaching every social convention by kissing the feet she has washed and anointed with her perfume. Jesus honors this woman even while addressing her sins. To Jesus she is anything but a nonperson. Me too. That’s good news.
Blessed are the disillusioned. Blessed are the ashamed who lost all hope of finding their way home. Blessed are those who recognize the danger they are in.
I experience the greatest joy in those moments when I remember my primary need is not to be taught a better way to a well-adjusted, more fulfilling life. I needed to be rescued, and sometimes still do. I needed to be reconnected with the Father, to be grabbed by the hand and dragged from danger. Contrary to what Rob Bell suggested, Jesus is not my best hope, he is my only hope.
Someone suggested that, sooner or later, all the liabilities of aging become our chief assets. I’m wondering if that kind of wisdom is available only to those of us who have lost a step. If success has failed you, what actually brings fulfillment? If what you thought was permanent and essential turns out to be transient, then what really is eternal?
Jesus. What a Savior!