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The Vocation of Serving

• Sandra Unger

For the fifth installment of our Everyday Influence series, Sandra shares her own life example of being stuck in a “box” of self-proclaimed righteousness, and how she realized that we are all in the same box: the big box of “screw-ups.” It is within this big box that Jesus dwells, and does his great work.

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Sandra shares her story of growing up in a conservative Baptist church. This was a community that frowned upon drinking (even coffee), dancing, rock music, and actually excluded people from joining their community if you engaged in these things. They had rules around everything: what kind of music to listen to, what kind of words to use, what kind of job was appropriate, how to wear your facial hair, and generally what was considered “decent” in all areas of life. They judged others who did not conform to this standard as being “hell bound” and/or “screw-ups.” So they were not supposed to socialize with them, but yet paradoxically they were expected to be trying to save them from hell! So this usually meant evangelizing through things like handing out printed tracts.

She realized as she grew up that because of this culture of rules and judgment, they were in many ways exactly like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, who had 613 different rules for every aspect of life. They taught all these rules, and judged all who didn’t follow them all. But Jesus told us what he thought about this in Matthew 23, in two sections entitled “A Warning Against Hypocrisy” and “Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees” (which should give us a feel for what he thought about them!)

So later she joined another community which defined itself as not being like “those” Baptists. Of course they were not like “those screw ups” either though, so this community defined itself by what it was not. The only difference was the particular offenses that they judged others for were different.

So finally she looked at what the Bible had to say on the matter (particularly Romans 2:1, Luke 5:32, 2 Peter 3:9), and discovered that Jesus himself was already IN the box of screw-ups– the very box that her previous communities would not enter.

And what’s more, when it all comes down to it, we are ALL screw ups. We just hide in our self-made boxes in order to hide from our sins. But nobody is without sin. Everyone, in one way or another, belongs in the box of “screw-ups.” And because as we see Luke 4:18-19, the so-called “screw-ups” in this box are the ones Jesus came for, it is actually a great box to be in, filled with good news for all of us!

This box allows for authenticity where we can admit the sins we struggle with, and get strength and power (not just forgiveness) from God.

And what should we do while in this box?

Love. John 13:35 tells us, this is our job is to have love one another.

Like we see in Luke 14, we are to live our life with people in need. We are supposed to get our hands dirty.

Live with other “screw-ups” like ourselves, and not judge any as being better or worse screw-ups than us. In Matthew 9 and Luke 7 Jesus eats and hangs out with the broken and sinful, and does not judge them.

Serve. James 1:27 tells us that we are not to merely hear the word, and go on living as we have, but rather to serve the orphan and the widow, get our hands dirty, but get our strength from God so as to not get pulled in to the mud with them.

The bottom line is that WE are the “tracts” — we are to hurl ourselves into the box of screw ups and spread God’s light and message.

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Topics: Calling, Evangelism, Judgment

Sermon Series: Everyday Influence

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 23 (NRSV)

    The scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

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