He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (THE MESSAGE)
All around the world those who struggle with alcoholism can join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups to help them in their struggle. The basic idea is that you admit who you are to others who are in much the same boat. People who attend know they are going to be listened to, know they are not going to be given glib clichés to solve their problems, know they can’t pretend to be any better than who they really are.
Which, when you think about it, is not a bad definition of what a church community should be like. We come together as broken people who can’t pull ourselves up by ourselves and need the help of others and of a source beyond ourselves. We don’t pretend to have all the answers or pretend to be better than what we are. We listen and do not condemn. We share and are understood.
Our churches may not be like that though. They may be local glee clubs set on cheering one another up and pretending all is well. They may be performance venues where we get great music and superb oratory but remain strangers to one another. Or they may be places which so major on sin that grace is forgotten. Where bible verses are seen as band aids for all our ills and weaknesses.
Honest brokenness was what got a tax collector right with God. It is not a bad place to start as we go about building authentic Christian community.
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