The holidays were difficult this year; kind of happy-sad. The last month has been an emotional roller-coaster. And I don’t like roller-coasters. And to top it all off, my grandfather passed away this week, before we could go to see him and take him his Christmas gifts. None of it feels real, and probably won’t until the funeral, or shortly after. But I am sad. We didn’t have a family Christmas, either, this year, due to bad weather. So I have a house full of uneaten cookies, and gifts not given, and a heart full of memories not made.
I was shopping in a local garden center several weeks before Christmas, and an ornament on a tree caught my eye. I have always thought that the verse in Luke read “peace on earth and goodwill to all men.” (Because Charles Schultz said so. Ask Linus.) On this ornament, however, it read “Peace on earth, and goodwill to those on whom God‘s favor rests.” And right there, standing in the store, I thought, wow. The obvious implication being that there are those on whom God’s favor does not rest.
What does it look like to have the favor of God resting on you? On me? What would my life look like? What does favor even mean? Somehow I resist the idea that it means (as we are taught) shiny new cars in the driveway, and miles of granite counter-tops in the kitchen; closets full of name-brand clothing and expensive trips in luxury hotels.
So where does the favor of God rest? On whom?
I took a Discipleship class several years ago at our church. I was so excited to take this class, as I had heard such good things about it. Somehow, by the time I got to it, the course had been changed, and had little to do with discipleship as taught by Christ Himself. He trained His disciples to go and change the world. We train them to make us look good as a church, and protect our highly vulnerable reputations.
Another church I went to in the past required us to go out into the community as part of our counselor training. We had to attend AA meetings, and actually go to the Department of Social Services, and report on what we observed. Before we were allowed to minister to anyone.
As counselors, we are called to stand in the gap. Much as the Holy Spirit does for us, as our advocate, and helper. We are called to be people-helpers. To ‘go about and do good.’ This is what Jesus modeled for the original disciples. He spent time alone in prayer, and then touched lives. It wasn’t about Him, or His ‘platform’. The disciples were not his ‘staff’ enlisted to promote and protect Him. They were students; followers learning how to lead. Going to the people, not being ushered away from them by a group of trained bouncers. We have turned from wanting the favor of God on our lives to wanting the favor of The Pastors on our lives. And in all honesty, those who get caught up in this do it largely because the lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to are underwritten by the church.
This is not what I want. It never was.
I drove through a housing development last week, looking at all of the beautiful houses, and the lights and decorations, and had a small pity-party for myself that I am no longer welcome in the houses of some of these leaders. But it’s not what I want. It’s not what I am here for; not what I am called to. I haven’t been through hell just to sit and bask in the reflected glory of the few who know how to stir emotions and reward allegiance to the Vision.
Somehow I see Christ Himself pulling away. Did people follow Him? Of course. In Mark chapter two, we see Him getting up early and going away to deserted places to be alone with God. And the disciples also got up, and followed Him. “Don’t you know everyone is looking for you? Hurry up, Jesus, you have a ministry to run. What are you doing way out here alone? Come on. The media are here, and they want pictures. Maybe you could get a few shots with some of the kids. Then we’ll take you out for lunch and then maybe do a book-signing for all those who bought your latest book.”
Is it just coincidence that the word favor has largely been replaced by the word status in our culture?
What is it we really want?
Something to think about before we make all of our well-intentioned resolutions.