(The following are random thoughts related to my long-time work as the leader of a faith-based non-profit, and deeply wrestling with the realities of needing volunteers, while simultaneously trying to please organizational stakeholders – a journey that is not for the faint of heart. And yet, here I am.)
Technically speaking, none of Jesus’ disciples were ‘believers’, in the sense of a modern day born again understanding. It hadn’t been developed yet. Our focus on who’s in and who’s out has really only been in existence for around 150 years.
Judas, a thief, was put in charge the money box. Smart one, Jesus. Somehow I’m thinking they skipped the pastoral reference part of the volunteer interview.
What did Jesus know that no one else did? Why did Jesus trust that all would be well? Did Jesus have such a light hold on the value of money, that he would risk it’s loss at Judas’ hand? (Hmmm, something I might need.) Or, did Jesus trust that Judas was a work in progress, and nonetheless still valuable to do his work in his little corner of the world? (Which, by the way, became stories that we would read to discern their place in our own lives – eons after their occurrence in a different time and place and culture.)
‘Disciple’ essentially means ‘learner’. I’m learning more every. single. day. month. year. decade.
Decidedly, (to which some are now raising their eyebrows in mournful agreement), I am not the person I was decades ago, who held (supposed) truth with a much more firm and knowing hand.
My faith gets refined, defined and mined all the time. On an aside, I just realized that mined can have the meaning of excavation or explosion – both are valid.
My faith remains steadfast; my beliefs adjust with age, experiences, culture, and calling.
So, the primary motive for enforcing a volunteer proving ground of enough faith is presumably the who’s in/who’s out paradigm – because, if one doesn’t embrace an exacting model, how does one effectively evangelize? (Which is the primary value for some traditions.)
Let’s take this down to a bare-bones query: “Make Jesus known” – what does that even mean? Emulate Jesus’ behavior to the extent our humanness can? Yes, okay, I can buy that.
It’s my desire to generously embrace an understanding that we’re all on a spiritual journey. Some of us found our way to the front of the line via something akin to Disneyland’s Fast Pass, in that we were very eager to get closer to figuring it all out, due to our drivenness, our jobs, our fears, our whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and we checked in early, inquiring minds wanting to know, and all that. The other option is that some of us are just neurotic.
And sometimes we even feel like we’re getting closer to the center target of Jesus. In my view of faith-shaped living, I’ve embraced what’s referred to as a centered-set model. Picture a dartboard: Jesus is at the center as the target, the money shot, and we’re all somewhere on the way there, sometimes moving forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes on the perimeter, fearful or apprehensive of our place – sometimes even hanging on for dear life!
What’s the purpose of knowing Jesus? For me, it’s about joining in the work of God for the good of the world. Bringing grace, mercy and justice for all, in the places I live, move and have my being. It’s likely going to look differently than your knowing.
Ever hear the saying ‘love God – love others’ as a personal mission statement/mantra? The above paragraph is just that, only simplified.
Assuming someone is a safe person (no judgement, no agenda, able to be confidential, full of kindness and compassion), who am I to decide whether someone has permission to intentionally love another person when they’ve expressed a desire to do so, but they don’t fit in a neat and tidy box?
Is it possible to have policies that are too exclusive, considering that we’re all broken people needing love, hope and compassion? Without a doubt, much of my own wrestling and healing from less-than-stellar life choices has come about through my sitting with others in similar circumstances – as a leader. Still does. (Because, you know, ‘I’m not perfect just forgiven’, right?)
Jesus set a standard of grace in his selection of disciples, including Judas.
Judas wasn’t perfect, far from it, but Jesus nonetheless saw that he had value, including him among his inner circle. Let’s afford people-who-desire-to-volunteer (love) the same courtesy, respecting that if one is on a trajectory toward getting closer to representing Jesus’ character, it just might be okay? It’s a posture of hope – for us, and for those we desire to welcome among us.