If you get a chance, watch the video above. I think this is a good parable for what it’s like to live in Christian community. It’s an actual intervention. With people actually judging other people on national television. A woman named Amber is about to lose her daughter and her life to alchohol, and her friends are taking the step to “judge” her.
You can tell that her friends and family really do care about her. You can tell she’s angry and bitter. And you can tell that this is an extremely awkward situation to have put on cable T.V. She doesn’t want to be in that seat.
Nobody wants to be in that seat.
There was a season last year when I was going through a difficult few weeks in ministry and life. I had begun to make some personal decisions that were not very healthy. And at one point a very good friend sat me down and asked me about what was going on. And then he suggested that I make some behavior modifications.
And I on the outside I was great. I was smiling like an Olsteen, but inside I was immediately defensive and upset.. I suddenly realized this was no dear friend I was talking to, this is Judas. Outside I was trying to diffuse the tension with humor, but inside I was asking, “Who does this guy think he is? I have a mother and she’s not here.”
I immediately started wanting to point out the log in my friends eye, or at least make one up.
It’s often pointed out that Western Churches are not very good at Discipleship. The surveys show that Christians in America live shockingly similar lives to people who are not Christian. Churches are great at helping people become “Christian” but not very good at helping them become disciples of Jesus. We can get people into buildings or programs, but not much Jesus into people.
But the heart of this problem isn’t Church programming, I think it is the lack of real community in our lives.
There’s a reason that the word disciple comes from the same word as discipline. Think of the way Jesus did this. Jesus gets 12 guys together and they live life with each other. He seems to always be irritating them, he is always challenging their value systems, he’s constantly trying to help them see people and God differently. He’s always correcting them, or arguing with him or putting ears back on people when they pull out their sword at the wrong time.
That’s Discipleship according to Jesus.
And if you are a Christian, that is what you have actually signed up for.
Not for everyone to speak into your life, but for a few specific people to be able to speak anything into it.
At one point in Jesus ministry he talks about the Cost of Discipleship. He tells the people who are considering following him to think long and hard about it before they do. Not because he doesn’t want more disciples, but because he wants them to know just what they are getting themselves into. This isn’t a religious country club you are signing up for, this is a new way of being in the world, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But it can happen.
Jesus is saying, “You can be like me.”
So I’m sitting there with my friend feeling defensive and thinking about how stupid he is. And then little by little, I began to realize that my friend was right. I was taking steps toward a future that he could see and I couldn’t. And he wasn’t being arrogant or condescending, he was being a friend.
One of the things that never ceases to surprise me in ministry, and just life, is the capacity we have for self-deception. We are so good at lying to ourselves and believing it. I see this all the time in others, and occasionally I’m able to glimpse it in myself. And that’s why being in community is so important to being a disciple of Jesus. It’s like having someone hold up a mirror for you, allowing you to see both the good and the bad.
But let’s be clear, that is part of the cost Jesus is talking about.
And it doesn’t help anybody by pretending that it doesn’t exist or that it isn’t that costly. To follow Jesus involves being pruned and shaped and challenged and changed. It’s involves submitting yourself to the community around you because of the deep awareness that we have that we are not perfect and that we actually may not be able to see ourselves clearly at all times.
Part of judging the Cost of Discipleship is realizing the cost of judging. It’s painful it’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, you will never want it at the time.
Nobody ever thinks an Intervention is a good idea. But sometimes it is the only way to become the men and women that God wants us to be.
So back to the video clip. It’s the show Intervention on A&E.. It’s always centers around a person struggling with substance or alcohol abuse, they are destroying their lives and so the friends and family gather to confront them and plead with them to change.
If you want to be reminded of what the human condition looks like, try watching an episode. And pay close attention to the way the person who is addicted responds. They almost always use words like “freedom” or talk about “minding their own business” they blame the other people there for the way that their lives have turned out or accuse them of trying to control them. And they almost always say something like, “Don’t Judge me.”
But for you, the viewer, you’ve got a different perspective. You’re not addicted, and you’re not emotionally involved. You can see that what these people want has nothing to do with impeding freedom or condemning their friend. It’s out of deep love that they have mustered the courage to confront, and in the more successful interventions they ask their friend to choose between their relationships or their addiction.
And while it’s painful to watch someone in that seat. It’s even more painful to be in it yourself. But part of the Cost of Discipleship is to allow people to put you in seats like that. And when it does happen, (and it will, because you’re not perfect) don’t immediately reach for words like freedom and independence, because those words don’t belong to you there. You gave that up. That’s the Cost.
So sit in the chair and open up to the people that you’ve allowed to love you.
Because the only thing worse than being in that seat…is not having a seat like that at all.