Saint Joe

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  1 Timothy 1:15

Paul is saying, “God is in the business of saving people who are a hot mess—and I am at the front of that line.  So, if you are a mess-of-a-person, like me—then you are Jesus’ kind of person.”

But, you say, Paul was a Pharisee and a good guy. Really?

It is the way of things for people to tell their pastors their dark secretes.  I learned a long time ago to never say, “You’ve got to be kidding!” when someone reveals a deep dark sin.  But can you imagine someone coming to the Apostle Paul and saying, “This all sounds good but God could never love someone one like me after what I’ve done?  You, Paul, I get that God would love you.  You are a church planter and Scripture writer; you are a good person, but not me.  Not after what I have done.”

Paul could have said, “Are you kidding!  Have you killed church people? Because I have…Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. “

What has helped me a great deal has been to take a long hard look at my sinful life in the mirror of God’s word and let it drive me to brink of despair and then in that darkness tune my ears to the whisper from the gentle Savior and hear him say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

And what is amazing is that when I see the national debt size of forgiveness I have received, it makes me want to be a forgiver as well.  When I am astonished at how much I have been forgiven I desperately want to pay it forward to the hard-to-love-people in my life.

I took a writing course a few years ago down in the Wallingford area.  The first night we were there the instructor served us refreshments as we got to know one another—a meal of sorts.  He was at the head of the oblong table and I was at the foot.  There were probably 15 people in the class.

He asked us to go around the table and tell our name, where we live, what we do for a living and what we want to write about.  There was a computer programmers that wanted to write about espionage.  There was a scientist that wanted to write a non-fiction book on the environment.  There was a real estate agent that wanted to write about food and wine.  And, sitting next to me, was a lady who said she was an office manager in downtown Seattle and wanted to write about sex.  The group broke out in a chorus of oohs and aahs. Then she went into some detail about the kind of erotica she planned to write about.

My turn.

“My name is Joe Chambers from Mukilteo and I want to write about my experiences in the wilderness.”  I turned my head to the next person indicating I was finished and for us to move along in the round robin.

The group almost in unison asked me what I did for a day job.

“I’m a pastor.”  The place erupted in laughter.

The office manager lady who is going to write about sex apologized profusely to me and leaned over to me and said, “I really am sorry, Father.  I am not much of religious person please forgive my crassness.”

Want to know what I said?

“Well, my child, — I’m not a very religious person either and neither is my Church or Jesus. In fact our motto is: no perfect people allowed.”

She said, “I think I could go to a Church like that.”

When Johnny Cash died a few years ago director Tony Kaye got a bunch of celebrity singer/song writers and actors to lip sync a Johnny Cash song called God’s going to Cut You Down.  It is in that edgy, grainy black and white style.  You see people like Sheryl Crow, Johnny Depp, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Chris Rock and Denis Hopper lip sync along with the foot stomp and gravelly voice of Johnny.

Right in the middle the video, Bono, of U2 stands up with a paint brush and scrawls as graffiti on a wall the words,

“Sinners Make the Best Saints”

May the love of Jesus disturb, transform, and re-shape you—even you who are a mess—because in Jesus’ eyes—sinners make the best saints.


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