Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jesus in the Strip-club

“Generally, I don’t think Christians would like Jesus if he showed up today as he did 2000 years ago. In fact, I think we’d call him a heretic and plot to kill him, too.”
Brian McClaren, Generous Orthodoxy

“To the hustlers, killers, murderers and drug dealers, even the strippers…” – Kanye West, Jesus Walks

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
- 1 Corinthian 9:20-23

This blog entry is dedicated to my two new friends – Justin and Lacey, they are missionaries here to New Zealand who I have the privilege to spend a load of time with. We had a discussion about three weeks ago, this discussion has spurred this blog entry, which should have been written two weeks ago if I had not gotten as side tracked as I did with other more important things.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, how do we live as lights in the world. How do we live as lights in a reality that is dirty and messy? How do we be salt and light and reach out.

More importantly as missionaries to our culture, how far is too far? How far do we go to scream that we love people who are hurting and in pain?

I know in the past I tried to live in a way where it was better to segregate yourself from the world, stay in a nice safe church building, and you will keep safe. But is this what we were truly called to?

If we look to the ultimate example Jesus, we find some interesting results. Jesus, is wholly holy, yet he came and live amongst us, sinful people, so he could ultimately show the love of God to us. He didn’t spend his time with the all-together sorted people, the holier than thou. No he spent his time with the broken, the lost.

Lets see some examples:
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people." And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Mark 14:1-9

This is a crazy story, when you actually read between the lines of the story. Jesus is a Jewish Rabbi, sitting in the house of a well to do Pharisees. In runs in this half naked girl with an alabaster jar, she starts pouring perfume on his feet, sobbing, she washes his feet. The men in the room would be wondering what the heck is going on. This girl is washing their rabbis feet – this is itself is uncomfortable – but they also know who the girl is, not one of the good girls, but a prostitute. They can’t understand why Jesus allows her to do this – why no call for repentance, why no disgust, just a sincere look of compassion on his face.

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink."
Luke 5:27-33

Jesus sets the example, he spends those we consider in the not worthy, reaches out to the lost and shows love and compassion to those around him. He wasn’t scared of being “polluted” by them. He just brought healing, he ate with them. The interesting thing is that Levi followed – he brought all those who were considered unworthy to dinner with Jesus. Levi knew that he had discovered someone special and wanted to allow others share in this wonderful thing he discovered. He wasn’t scared to invite those who wouldn’t be considered worthy – he had nothing to lose in fact (he was a tax collector himself – considered the lowest of the low himself!)

So what does this mean for you? What does this mean for me?

I am only slowly figuring this out. What it has meant is that I’m more involved that ever in the lives of people that come across my path. I don’t want to see people as projects; I see them as friends, to love and care for and reach out to. I will listen intently to their hopes and fears, eating with them, spend time playing sport with them, going to the movies with them. I want to be in there for the long haul, journeying with them through life and hopefully in the process I will ultimately help lead them to find wholeness and new life.

It also means going out of my comfort zone. It means pushing further and going into places I once found dangerous to tread so that I can show Jesus’ love.

Me and my friends were talking about what this would mean. We were talking about the gay community on Victoria campus and the feeling that they wanted to get involved in their and just be friends, and help out and serve the community. Of course one of the hardest questions is “How far is too far” and there will be conscience calls to make, but what a way to shine out and show Gods love. Showing that people who are in gay and lesbian lifestyles are loved by God and are worthy of his compassion. Showing that Jesus loves each and everyone of us, no matter what we have done.

It is very similar to what a group of Christians in America have started to do. Their ministry is xxxChurch – the Worlds biggest Christian Porn Site. They reach out to those involved in the porn industry in America and more widely. It has also tackled the issue of pornography within the Church. People such as Mike Foster have spent time ministering with people in the porn industry, just sharing time with them. They even got one of the porn directors to direct a video about how destructive porn can be. These guys have gone in and started being salt and light in a place where few Christians would dare to travel.

So what does this mean? Where is God calling you? Are there foreign dangerous lands that we are avoiding or missing here where we are?

I don’t think God has called me to minister in the strip club, but if he does, I want to be willing to go and be light there. I want to be where God wants me to be. Bringing redemption wherever he leads me.


justin "the balding" said...

Hey man! Really encouraged by your heart and your words. Thanks for coming round and engaging with crazy convo's with us! My brain is mesh now, it needs to sit and reduce some thoughts i think. You rock see you tomorrow.

lspeck said...

Nathanael I know I got your name wrong for a while... but thanks for showing us grace. Loved reading your blog... and I can't wait to keep the convo going... I'm still thinking about what it means for me to be a light in such communities. And I loved what you suggested about making friends with peop before barging into a community and trying to "change" them. You are a blessing.

Nathanael Baker said...

Hey Justice and Lacey, Yeah my brain was mesh after the convo on tuesday night as well. Thanks for sharing in conversation with you guys. I enjoy being around you guys so much.

Thanks for your encouraging words lacy, Its always good to hear that I may be on the right track with the things I write. As both of you well know, I'm only learning and growing. God is teaching me a hell of a lot!