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February 24, 2014, 9:28 AM

Face to Face

I've had a line from one of the songs we sung yesterday (2/23/14) running on loop in my head the past 20 hours or so (Thanks Reuben!!).  Its from the song Faithful Love, and in the chorus we sing:  "I've seen faithful love face to face, and Jesus is his name."    A song stuck in one's head is not something to sneeze about, more or less write an entire essay on...  Its all the other stuff thats been engaging my brain this weekend that makes this line pop to the forefront.  

In my daily travels through blogs, commentaries, and outposts on Faith, Ministry, and Theology, I've run across a scathing set of articles written against a mega-church pastor who has skirted our newsfeeds recently for a particularly extravagant house purchase/financial decision.  Dont worry, I'm not going to add to the fodder, I merely want to explain the convoluted thought process in my brain.  I started along this path because one of the articles dealt with children, and the messages being presented to the children of that church.  The message is "We trust Pastor _______ and the vision God gave him, completely." Now, on the surface this looks harmless and like a way to build support and trust in the leadership.  The problem became when the message was delivered in a coloring book to the children's ministry featuring only pictures of Pastor _______ and The Code (their church's vision elements), and looked more like brainwashing than innocent coloring-in-the-lines!  

Through all of these ramblings and alarm bells going off in my head, I was still singing that line from Faithful Love.  What does Jesus look like?  Where have I seen him face to face in display of love?  Is it in this young and upcoming Pastor _______ who is obviously a charismatic and influential leader?  Is it in the face of the preacher on television who has thousands and tens of thousands of supporters who follow him unquestioningly?  If thats where I'm to see the face of Jesus, why doesnt my heart leap every time I hear their voices?  Why dont I throw my money at the television when they ask for more, more, more?  Why do I hear alarm bells going off every time I hear the term "New York Times Best Selling Author of _________" when they're introduced?  

I think its because I'm looking for the face of Jesus in the wrong place.  I read another blog on Sunday morning that not only had a different set of alarm bells going off in my head, it had pictures of diseased people that made me want to scroll even faster through to the end of the webpage.  It spoke of a Western civilization criminal imprisoned in a third world country.  This man was incarcerated for a minimal period of time, however the prison in which he served his time was also the permanent home of the outcasts of society.  These outcasts were not fellow criminals, they were lepers.  In what was the ultimate form of culture shock, the man was forced to live his daily prison routine among those who were given sanctum in this prison because they were shunned from every other place.  

This seemed to those charged with punishing his crimes, fitting for the white-collar character of this man and for his white-collar crimes on the poor and destitute.  They were right.  He felt as though he was being tortured and punished far beyond the scope of his crime and tried his best to avoid any and all contact with these pariahs.  Eventually though, he found himself being befriended by and in turn befriending a woman who was disfigured, crippled, and ravaged by disease.  He described later what he had found in the face and eyes of this woman:  Jesus.  After weeks of avoiding his fellow "inmates" he began to see them differently.  In their gnarled hands he found solace and comfort, more so than he ever found in holding the smooth hands of women he sought so eagerly in the past.   When cleaning their wounds he found peace, a peace far beyond anything money could have provided.  

What this man found was the face of Jesus.  And Jesus didnt look anything like me, you, or the young mega-church pastor who claimed to be the next best thing to hearing from Jesus himself.  Jesus looked like someone I would shield my children from if we encountered them on the street.  Jesus looks like someone who didnt take a hot shower this morning before putting on freshly washed and ironed clothes.  Jesus looked like the people Jesus himself said were the most important in Matthew 25: 31 - 46.  What was the ultimate in revelation for the man imprisoned, is that he found himself looking like Jesus to his fellow inmates.  Yes, Jesus began to look a lot like a white-collar criminal who was guilty of taking money from those who had little to none to take.  When he touched them without flinching, he looked like Jesus.  When he helped them walk just a few steps closer to the well, he looked like Jesus.  When he picked them up out of the dirt, brushed them off, and placed them back in their ramshackle cots, he looked like Jesus.

And that scares me.  It scares me because I dont look anything like Jesus. 

The man, once released from his incarceration and free to resume his life, found himself longing to remain with his friends.  He saw Jesus face to face, and was forever changed.  Needless to say, he did not resume a life of white-collar crime.  He came home and began looking for the face of Jesus at home, in the faces of executives and CEO's, the homeless, the affluent, and the destitute.  When he looked for Jesus, he found him... and When he found him, he began to look like him.  

I've seen faithful love face to face, and Jesus is his name.  I just wish I saw him staring back at me when I look in the mirror.  



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