Damned if He Does…
“Jesus said, ‘John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners!’” – Matthew 11:16-19
We may not admit it, or even know it, but most of us harbor fixed notions about what a real Christian is like, or a perfect parent, or an ideal pastor, or a good citizen. And when people don’t conform to our categories, we don’t question our assumptions, we question their character. She can’t be a good Christian: she had an abortion. They can’t be a good pastor: they have tattoos. He can’t be a good American: he sat for the anthem.
Which would be bad enough were our judgments also not so changeable. You believe good pastors should be approachable. Yours is a cold fish. You get a new one who’s funny and warm. You wish he had more gravitas. The mother of your daughter’s best friend is a hands-off mom. You disapprove. Then she gives her kid a curfew. You snipe to a neighbor, “She’s smothering that child.” Some days we wish Jesus would walk to us on water. When he does, we wonder why he never learned to swim.
Never satisfied, we curdle with snark. Consistently inconsistent, we’re always missing the ingenuity of grace. It frustrates the heck out of Jesus. He calls it out, this poverty of imagination; but it’s still the last thing he hears, having disappointed us to the end: “You have to be a fraud! No Son of God would end up on a cross.”
Unfix my categories, Holy Spirit; make wide and ever widening. I don’t want to miss the ingenuity of grace.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.