Monday, April 7, 2014

Disciples and Labels

One of my favorite things to study is the relationships that Jesus had in the bible. In particular I enjoy reading about the first 12 disciples. After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil he departed to Galilee and began his ministry of preaching to others. This is where he met the disciples and asked them to follow him.

The first disciples Jesus choose are important because none of them were perfect. Consistently throughout the Gospels we read how Jesus taught the disciples who God really was and what His word really means. Jesus choose a group of men with rough edges at best, sketchy backgrounds if we are talking truthfully, and at the worst would abandon Jesus in his greatest hour of need.

There was Matthew the greedy and corrupt tax collector and Thomas the doubter who didn't believe that Jesus was risen. There was Judas who betrayed Jesus and plotted to turn Jesus over to the officials. There was also Peter who denied Jesus in the hours leading up to his death and all throughout the Gospel had a rocky faith. He was either all in or all out. The rest of the disciples were not any more qualified. Jesus chose Simon who was a rebel fighting against corrupt government. He also chose Bartholomew who questioned whether Jesus was the real deal because he came from Nazareth, and what good would come from a poor town like that. The rest we know very little about, only that some were a tough group of fishermen.

So what do a bunch of fishermen, a rebel, tax collector, a doubter, a betrayer, and a denier and a brown-noser have in common?

They were not perfect and they all needed Jesus. These men all had labels. Some of them had very imperfect backgrounds that were questionable at best. But Jesus saw in them something good. He saw in them value. They were the diamonds in the rough (literally) that would become the rock of the early church. It is through Jesus' relationships with the disciples and early followers that we understand what Jesus was really teaching. Jesus was teaching us the power of love.

If Jesus saw value in a group of men as imperfect at the disciples, you can bet he sees good in us too. Jesus was preaching that through Him, we are made whole.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 

God loved us so much that he sent his son into this world to save us. This is about God's love for us. God loves us more than enough.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

All of our brokenness, all of our labels, all of the sins of the past (and our future)are all wiped clean with God. Sometimes society sticks us with a label or tells us we need to be something else. Sometimes we do it to ourselves. We tell ourselves that we will never be good enough, strong enough, believe enough, etc. But it doesn't matter what your weakness is or how many flaws you have. God loves you no matter what. Labels don't stick with Jesus. Jesus loved the disciples and he loves us too.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9

What a gift grace is! Unconditional love leads to grace. No hoops to jump through, no strings attached, never ending and infinite love. Nothing you can do can make God love you any more, and nothing you can do will make God love you any less. We don't need to be perfect because His love is always enough.

We all carry a label with us. We all think something makes us not good enough. But we are good enough and we are deserving of God's love. We are imperfectly perfect to God. God brought Jesus into this world so that we might know love and love each other. Real love. So that we might be brought out of the darkness too light and that we could become a light to each other.

We don't have to do anything but such a gift like that? It inspires us to love each other. It is so powerful that how can you NOT share it. When something is so good, every part of you wants to share that with others.

This pictures in this post are from our youth group last night. I had the kids look up scriptures about Matthew, Thomas, Peter, and Judas. I had them decide what label each of these disciples had. Before they did this I gave them 60 seconds to write down as many labels as they could think of that defined themselves. While they were working I wrote all of these down. We only had 8 teens and they came up with nearly 50 labels. That is a LOT of labels for any group of young adults to have.

My point was to show them that Jesus doesn't care about these labels. God's love is greater than any label they have. We all need to ditch our labels!

We are the next generation of disciples. I think we really need to lean on the stories of the early disciples and look at their relationships with Jesus. These disciples were not perfect, they got things wrong. But these mistakes and errors did not define their journey. The journey was learning to love God, love ourselves and love others.

It is also okay for us to get things wrong too. It is going to happen. We are no more perfect than the disciples in the early church. We are still writing our own stories and walking our own journeys with Christ. We all will betray or deny Christ at some point in our lives. The important thing is that we focus on love. God teaches us that love wipes out labels. Love should be the center of our relationships. Love is the solid foundation that we need.

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