“All these I have kept since my youth.” Those are the words of the “rich man” who initially asked Jesus about what he must do to inherit eternal life. A dialogue ensues with Jesus sharing about the Ten Commandments and then the man’s response of having kept all of them. There’s a really beautiful thing that happens next. Mark writes that Jesus looked at him, “loved him,” and then told him to go and sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor. The man then walks away sad because he isn’t ready/able to do that. Instead of “loving him” (which I hear as Jesus having deep compassion about what he has to say next to the man and about the fact that I kind of doubt that the man had really kept all of the 10 Commandments perfectly since his youth), Jesus could have really slammed him for arrogance, etc. But instead, he loved him. He loved the man in his unfinished state and pointed out what he still needed to do.
This is a picture of an Adirondack chair that is sitting in our garage currently. The pieces have all been cut, sanded, and assembled into five chairs but we haven’t gotten to staining or sealing them yet, so in the garage they sit. They can be used (they’re pretty comfortable and are REALLY solid) but they aren’t ready to be left outside. They’re getting there, but they’re unfinished. I can see the progress from when they were just a bunch of 2x4x8s to what they are now. But they’re not fully finished yet.
I am unfinished. Jesus is still working on me. I see lots of areas where I have grown and matured but I still see lots of areas that remain. A few years ago I probably would have had a hard time with this sense of being unfinished but today, I see it as just one step along the way of Jesus that I am trying to follow. This morning, in Richard Rohr’s daily email about Quaker pastor, Philip Gulley, who wrote 10 statements about following Jesus. They really spoke to me and reminded me of how unfinished I am…
• Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
• Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
• The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
• Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
• Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
• Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
• Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
• Peacemaking is more important than power.
• We should care more about love and less about sex.
• Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is God’s work anyway).
Lots of work to do. But I am grateful for the one who is still working on me.
(From Fr. Rohr – Philip Gulley, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus (HarperOne: 2010). This list is adapted from his chapter titles)