Here are some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head since last Sunday when I heard a sermon from I Peter chapter 2, particularly:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
Lots of talking about stones: Jesus, being the LIVING STONE, our CHIEF CORNER STONE; but my thoughts were more about US also, “as lively stones” … building up a spiritual house … acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
While the sermon I heard wasn’t exactly about the following thoughts, here is what God showed me personally with hopes that my “theology” isn’t too far out there!
Ok, GOD made stones … not one like the other:
Just so, God made people … not one like the other. And yet, when we stack the stones God made, they can become a useful beautiful wall or structure. In a natural stone wall, one must consider the specific shape of each stone and which hole it fits into. A round-ish stone can’t fill a square-ish hole. The stones must match their gap in order to build a strong wall. Just so, God uses people of all – shall we say – shapes and sizes – to build His church, founded on the corner stone of Jesus Christ who keeps us all aligned.
Man makes nice brick walls … man uses the same mold to make the exact same size bricks which make man’s nice, even, outwardly pretty and uniform wall.
When a brick gets chipped or broken or isn’t formed well, it can’t be used in the nice, pretty wall. It is discarded and disregarded. I think sometimes “religion” puts man into a mold, expecting each person to be a certain way to fit into a certain hole. When a person doesn’t fit that mold, he is regarded as useless and unable to fit into the pretty wall that religion like to present. Sadly, I’ve seen that in churches I’ve known … a person who doesn’t fit neatly into the “Christian” mold is forced into a hole that isn’t his or her size. It is an awkward fit, and either the person is disregarded, or they go away on their own. That is because man can’t force perfection upon everyone. That is why religion doesn’t always work, and I prefer to say I have a RELATIONSHIP with God, not just religion.
God uses the broken, the chipped, those of all sizes and shapes … and He can make a beautiful, useful structure when a person (a “stone”) allows themselves to be placed in exactly that hole that was made for him or her. While some Christians can thrive in a “cookie cutter” religion, where man-made standards dictate what is useful or not, many don’t survive and are either set aside or give up. This is why I prefer God’s wall, the way I see God using “stones” of all shapes … While God’s holiness demands certain things of us, His mercy and grace allow broken stones, odd-shaped stones, and a vast variety of stones to be usable for His glory. As a Christian, my goal for the future is to never cast aside a person who some might consider useless.
That said, having worked in ministry, I know there are some people who just can’t be helped … and by continuing to bail them out, one is just enabling them to continue down a path of destruction. There are people who one must let get. HOWEVER, I’ve found myself – in the past – labeling people – as “lazy” or “a moocher” or “a bad parent” or “unrealistic” and sadly, my list goes on. It hurts me to admit it, and only until I received my own label – falsely – as being “disgruntled” by someone in my church did it hit home that I was NO BETTER than the one who falsely judged me.
In the last year or so, I have encountered several people – one in particular who I had cast aside as someone whom “I’d never ever have anything in common with” – who have shown me love, acceptance, and a spirit of grace instead of judgment. I am humbled by watching them in action, treating every person – whether they were a so-called round stone, flawed stone, flat stone, or broken stone – exactly the same. No labeling, no judging, no setting aside. This is the compassion I want to go forward with.
I’m not sure I can explain it any better than this. And I will close by another example from the evening prayer circle time I shared at the new church we are visiting in Arkansas:
While our big kids were in youth group and MiMi was in a children’s class on Sunday evening, some people from the church met in small groups to share and pray. In the group I was in, a somewhat “rough” lady was sitting near me; she seemed awkward and was very quiet. As we took turns praying for a particular family whose relative that day had fallen seriously ill; we also prayed for other things. When it was her turn, she prayed somewhat haltingly and added a request for Jesus to help her son. After the prayer, the leader of our group asked her if she’d mind sharing about her son so we could better pray with her. And as this lady shared, she began to open up and as we all bent in towards her, she began to cry as she shared the story of her 21 year old son who had just been arrested again for drug possession. This time, he was going to prison because he had failed to show up for his last court date. She then shared she herself was recently out of prison – not for drugs, she added – but she had accepted Jesus at one of the church’s weeknight services. The leader of our small group showed such amazing compassion for this woman … who wasn’t dressed like the rest of us, who when she pushed the sleeve of her sweater up had a very offensive tattoo on her forearm, who might have been disregarded by some, even looked down upon and seen as not acceptable. And I as I watched this small group reach out to this woman – as a mom, a child of God, and a broken stone – I almost could FEEL the Holy Spirit right there with us … The love and compassion in that circle of women was palatable.
When our prayer time was over, I went over to the woman and told her I was new to the group too and what my name was and promised to pray for her and her son. Honestly, a year or more ago, I might not have done that. But now, I too – seeing my own chips and flaws on my stone – want to be a useful stone in God’s work … to fill my space in holding up the wall that is the church, that is Chrsitianity, that is God’s beautiful work.