Matthew nine has some pretty powerful passages. Ones that if we re-read, maybe we would be challenged at how exactly God works.
It starts with a man on a mat, forgiven of sins. Why? Because he showed up. All he did was say, “I need you to touch me Jesus.” No sinners prayer. No five-step program on discipleship. He just showed up, in desperate need of Jesus.
With that heart, Jesus says, “You’re sins are forgiven.”
A few lines down, we meet Matthew. He’s a thief, spy and traitor. He’s become rich at the exploitation of the poor and powerless. And it is he that Jesus dines with.
Furious, the religious leaders say, “Why do you eat with these people?” (A sign of friendship)
Jesus’s response? “I want the sinners. I want those that know they need me.”
Dear Jesus I need you.
As the religious scoffers and naysayers tell me Jesus can’t meet me in this place of dating a guy, as friends hold hesitations of approval or refusal, unsure of what to say, I hear God say, “I’m right here. I’m meeting you right here.”
And with those words, the turmoil of heart becomes still. I trust that He has me. Period.
Just like those misfits sitting around the table in Matthew’s house, I know that I’m not righteous by my will alone. I know that I am royally screwed if admittance into heaven is based upon my merit. I’m S.O.L. without Him.
But with Him… in the midst of my sin… He calls me son, He calls me His boy. As voices swirl around me, making me nauseous and nervous, He speaks peace to my heart.
“I have not left you. I’m right here. I’ll never leave you.”
I am holy, not because of anything I did. It has everything to do with what He did. He’s just looking for people to turn from their own efforts and cling to the cross.
This is repentance. A turning from self-dependance to dependance on Him.
Dependance for salvation. Dependance for provision. Dependance for making it through the day.
There is so much life offered to us, so much joy offered to us, so much love offered to us, offered at the expensive price of Jesus Christ. But it’s been paid. It’s like we’re at a five-course dinner, and Jesus say’s, “Eat up. The meal is paid for.” And we’re refusing to eat because we didn’t dress well and we forgot which fork to use.
We let shame starve us.
I know I do.
So much of my thinking has been conditioned to be conditional. I expect Christ to tolerate, me when I approach Him, and I find myself doing that with every person I come into contact with.
“They don’t actually love me. They tolerate me.”
“If I love them well, if I behave well, if I meet their needs, then I’ll be loved.”
For crying out loud, I even do this in my relationship with the guy I’m dating. If I mess up in some way shape or form, my mind immediately thinks that the relationship is over.
Our relationships with people reflect what we believe to be true about ourselves and our relationship with God.
I wanna trust that I’m infinitely loved by an infinite God, regardless of my current condition because He said, “It is well with your soul. I made it well.”
I’m loved no matter what. His blood is for me… no matter what.
I’m desperately trying to understand that I am loved… right here… right now… Unconditionally. That He is slowly but surely unwinding the conditions I have implemented to accept His love, in order to get to my heart.
At times, I feel like I’m tearing.
Matthew nine addresses this too.
“You can’t put new wine in old wine skin. You can’t patch old wine skin with new wine skin. It’ll tear and burst.”
The Old Testament was, “Here are the steps to get to God.”
The New Testament is, “Here is how God has come for you. God has found you, and He has paid the price to build a home you can’t run from. He’s decided to take residence in you.”
When I trust that, when I get away and hear Him speak to my heart, I feel free to love well. Why? Because I’m safe and am drinking of a love that no man or woman can give me.
But when I’m not drinking of this sweet grace, this sweet safety, I look to this guy I’m dating to satisfy the longings of my heart that only Jesus can fulfill. To create safety that only Jesus can provide. To promise me he won’t leave me.
But Jesus has already promised He will never leave me nor forsake me. Jesus has already promised me that I can find shelter for my weary soul in Him.
When I drink of this grace, when I eat of the table of love even though I’m dressed in a dorky outfit and I reach for the spoon at the top of the plate to eat a salad, I’m able to love without expecting anything in return. And that’s real love. Love that pours out without expectations.
But when shame whispers to me at the table, “You cannot eat of this food,” I become malnourished, and reach out for any and everyone to satisfy my soul.
But they can’t hold my heart like Jesus does. No one can.
After my first date with this guy currently I’m dating, I felt like God said, “How was your date?”
I smiled shyly and said, “It was awesome.”
Then I felt like God said, “How did you like how he held you?”
“Whoohoo! Damn! It was nice!”
Then I felt God’s coy smile, like He had a secret. “He may hold you physically, but no one can hold your heart like I do.”
I melted. Because it’s true.
Man or woman, I know that my heart will not be secure in their embrace alone. Yes, the man in my life has healed deep wounds that I didn’t even know were there, and he’s not even intentionally doing it.
He chases me out into the field, because he misses my company. But my heart screams, “I’ve always have wanted to be chased, to be wanted.”
I have never stepped into a gym because I fee like I don’t belong. He just wants someone to benchpress with, but to me I’ve been invited in.
I feel alone and panic as I’m on my own, and he says, “I’m sticking around. I don’t know why you think I’m going to leave. We’ll make it through this.”
I feel gross with massive acne breaking out on my chest. He says, “I love you no matter what, and I think you’re attractive no matter what. But I see how much that bugs you, and if I need to help pay for it, let’s get it taken care of.”
But as amazing as his love is, it “grows strangely dim” in the light of God’s unconditional love, and it is by His unconditional love that I am released to love. Why? Because my love is no longer conditional. It no longer fears, hoping that if I love I’ll get love back. I’m no longer looking to humanity to meet my eternal needs. I’m finding my satisfaction with Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The Gospel is hard. It genuinely is. It’s hard to trust that you’re loved and safe right here. It’s hard to trust that the mockers are wrong, that Jesus is right, and that it is truly by grace and grace alone that I am saved.
It’s hard to trust… period. But this is the Gospel.
We are loved right here, without conditions.
We are loved and forgiven before the leg is healed, before anything has changed, before another sacrifice is made. We are loved… right… here… and we need this love. It’s what our hearts were made for. Without it, life feels pointless, black and white, filled in with gray shades of rules and religion. But with Him, with Him life becomes full of color. It’s filled with every shade and hue of vivid love. All I need to do is open up and trust.
The Gospel is about learning to trust that Love, and most days, it’s freaking hard. But I’m gonna keep trying.