One of my friends took his daughter to the Minnesota State Fair recently, and they walked by a man holding a sign that said, “Jesus Hates Sin.” He was yelling.
What do you do with that?
How do you respond to that?
If you could have a conversation with that man, what would you want to ask him? What would you want to say to him? What would you want to learn about him?
One of the most remarkable things about God is that God doesn’t seem to care too much about controlling the Divine Brand. I would sue for libel. God smiles and continues to express the same great affection for both me and sign guy.
Robert Mulholland is a professor and author in his seventies, who gave a lecture a few months ago about the kind of love that looks like God’s kind of love. I was at that lecture, and the tremors from that earthquake are still being felt in my body.
It was quietly revolutionary. We all sat there, furiously scribbling in our notebooks (that’s what evangelicals do; we try to get it all down on paper and then into our heads, versus letting our hearts soak in the goodness and trusting we’ll remember what we need to remember).
I needed to remember one statement:
“There is a great difference,” Mulholland said, “between someone who is in the world for God, and someone who is In God for the world.
Years ago, a friend of mine was Director of Youth For Christ in his region. He met an older man who would become one of the great mentors in his life. When he first met this older man, he did what you and I do, which was to shamelessly try to win his approval.
“I’m the Director of Youth For Christ,” he proudly stated, hoping that would win him some approval and respect.
The older man thought for a second and said: “Hmm. Youth for Christ. I don’t know any youth who are for Christ. I do know a Christ who is for youth, however.”
And that little statement changed the trajectory of my friend’s life.
Someone who is in the world for God has an agenda and is in control of that agenda. She remains in control of her own transformation, and she unknowingly desires to remain in control of the transformation of the world around her. The problem is that transformation begins when we recognize that we are not in control, as the twelve steppers have taught us. It is difficult to be truly for someone that you are trying to control (whether that person is yourself, someone else, or God).
When I’m in the world for God, I’m convinced I’m going to do great things for God in the world. But pretty soon, I get so passionate about being for God that I end up trying to control people. And then when I cannot control them, I end up being against them (like people who hold up signs at State Fairs).
So maybe Mulholland is on to something. Maybe what God wants are people who are walking around in their actual lives, brave enough to simply be in God, and for the world.
Maybe when you are in God for the world, you can be a quiet revolution instead of a blustery declaration. The radical teaching of the mustard seed isn’t really the teaching; it’s to whom Jesus entrusted it. You and I are the mustard seeds, not our acts of love. And when you and I are planted in God, mustard seeds that we are, what sprouts up is surprising.
In God, For the World.
What does that look like for you?
My friend’s ten-year-old daughter looked at the sign, then looked at her dad. She said,
“Dad, I wish I had a marker. I would cross out the word “hates” and replace it with “forgives.”
In it together, friends.