Messianic Repellents

While in Mozambique this past November, I would cover myself each morning in Deep Woods OFF! to repel the vicious African beasts known as mosquitoes.  There were two things I noticed: 1) The mosquitoes kept coming, 2) People stayed away from me.

In Mark 7 we find Jesus once again confronting the religious teachers of his day, showing that their traditions (i.e. cleanliness before eating) were merely external, having no internal substance.

Echoing Isaiah’s words he says:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’  8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Jesus then follows up His verbal teaching by showing that the radical, preserving faith of God’s grace in Gentiles will instead receive His favor.  Jesus breaks through the barriers of the rituals and went to the people whom you would least expect…the Gentile “dogs” (27).

It was in reading this chapter I saw how the traditions of the Pharisees not only failed at bringing people closer to God, but they actually drove people away from Him.  They not only deny, but repel.

I wondered what traditions I am holding on to that act in the same fashion of repelling people to experience the redemptive touch of Christ.

A few obvious ones I immediately thought of:

  • The tradition that they have to “go to church” and “listen to a sermon” to learn about God or hear The Gospel.
  • The tradition that they have to “have it all together,” before pursuing him.
  • The tradition that they should have adequate biblical knowledge before entering a “biblical community.”
  • The tradition that they have to enter into a gather where music and singing is conducted to “experience God.”
  • The tradition that immediate change should occur in ones life following ones trusting in Christ.
  • The tradition that a certain attire is needed when the church body gathers.

Any other traditions (repellent) that you or the church-at-large assume people must uphold to receive God’s gift of grace?


~ by Dave Smith on April 22, 2009.

4 Responses to “Messianic Repellents”

  1. I’m surprised you haven’t gotten more comments here. Perhaps you listed many common ones and it’s hard for us to think of others.

    But, the one I face most often is the tradition that church is for Christians. In other words, I must buy into and believe everything that is taught there. Most churches do not foster a culture where we say, “It’s okay if you don’t agree with us.” Instead, as soon as we find someone who disagrees, we set about trying to change their mind. This teaches them not to come back, and we’re left again with only the people that agree with us.

    Jesus didn’t come for church people. In fact, people who were nothing like Jesus wanted to be with Jesus.

    If the church is the representation of Christ here on earth, shouldn’t those same people (nothing like Jesus) be drawn to our people and environments?

  2. I really like that Rich. Almost creating a bit of Areopagus feel to the culture of your meeting places.

    Well said.

    I also wonder if we can or maybe even should say it like this:

    “If the church is the representation of Christ here on earth, we draw ourselves and our environments to those same people?”

    I wonder if shifting that question around would shift our methodology as well?

  3. Yes, I feel where you are going, but it’s a both-and. The missional movement misses that Jesus was very attractional, with thousands gathering to hear him. The attractional movement can forget that Jesus was missional, always penetrating the needs of society. I think we can do both, and must do both if we are to be like Jesus.

  4. I agree it should be a both/and, with the balance shifting based on the culture you minister within.

    I guess that brings up my other thought…culture. How much of Jesus’ attraction wasn’t so much about him, but the culture he resided in? Or was it that he was known to many as simply a “miracle man,” drawing endless crowds? And could it have been those “incarnational miracles” (penetrating the needs of society) that was the source of the attraction, and not his teaching?

    If so, what does that tell us in how we are to attract?

    Not countering your points…just thinking through them myself here on a comment.

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