Messes of Biblical Proportions
Community is messy, and it's been that way since the beginning. Let's just think about some messes of Biblical proportions.
God created. Everything was good. Butthree chapters in, mess happened. Eve disobeyed God, encouraged Adam to join in the mess, and sin mess happened. Fingers got pointed and relational mess happened. The inevitable results of sin are proclaimed and life mess began.
Then we move to Cain and Abel. I would say jealousy and murder amount to mess.
Noah—built a huge boat to house the few remaining fragments of creation mess that God wanted to maintain. Later, he got himself drunk and his sons discovered him naked. Which resulted in some family breakdownMess.
Then there was Abraham claiming that his wife was not his wife and navigating water resources rights with his nephew, Lot. There’s Isaac and Rebekah playing favorites with their sons Jacob and Esau, thereby producing life-long (and history-altering) sibling rivalry. Then Jacob favoritism to his own son Joseph, which resulted in another family meltdown.
Let’s fast forward a few hundred years to Moses. I like to think of Moses as the first small group leader in the Bible—but look at these people he was charged with leading. They don’t follow instructions. They complain. And they forget the miracles they see in a matter of hours- they are completely ADD. It’s a mess.
Fast forward a bit more to David. I think of David as the second small group leader in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 22 we read about David running for his life and then hiding in the cave of Adullam. Then Scripture tells us that he was first joined by his family. And then he was joined by men who were in trouble, in debt, or just discontented. Great. Talk about a dysfunctional group. First of all- family. Then add on the Extra Grace Required people in the form of those who were in trouble or in debt or just plain discontented. Mess. How many of us feel like that’s our small group? Right? And think about David's other messy relationships. David and Saul. David and Uriah. David and Bathsheba. David and the prophet Nathan. David and his son Absalom. Okay, pretty much David and everyone.
Skip over to the New Testament. Jesus was born in the mess of a stable—a cave where animals were kept and fed. Placed in a stone feeding tough. Jesus called 12 men to follow him- fisherman, tax collectors, political revolutionaries—who bickered over who was going to be greatest in the Kingdom.
In Acts 15, the apostles had to meet in Jerusalem to sort out theological mess. Paul and Peter had issues. Paul and John Mark had issues.
The majority of writings in the New Testament are there because the early church was messy. Look at the church in Corinth—all the stuff that was happening there. Incestuous affairs, lawsuits, divorce and separation, idol worship, big egos, doctrinal fighting, sexual promiscuity, people getting drunk while celebrating communion. And you thought your small group was messed up.
And yet...in the midst of the mess...
As we read these stories, we see the hand of God writing his own story in them and through them. Emerging from the mess is the fingerprint of God writing the hope of the Gospel and the story of redemption in history.
Proverbs 14:4 has become one of my organizing metaphors in regards to group life:
Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.
You can have a clean barn with no animals in there. But you aren’t going to get much done without animals.
You can have a tidy group as long as no one is in it. But community requires that we show up. And showing up means bringing our mess.