• johned@aibi.ph

Untidy Saints - God Draws Straight Lines With Bent Sticks

There is a widespread notion in Christian circles that a “good Christian”, suitable for leadership, has a very tidy and well-organized life. The ideal church member is frequently pictured as the fulfillment of the Great American Dream. The family lives in a large house in the suburbs with a well-manicured lawn, they are good-looking polished professionals, the wife plays the piano or the violin or both, and the children are well-behaved straight A students with perfect teeth, good looks and athletic ability. They have a clean copybook and no discernible faults. They attend church regularly, are emotionally and maritally stable, have “everything together” and are respectable in every sense of the word. But this picture is simply NOT the biblical picture at all! Most of the major heroes of faith in the Bible have “something wrong with them” - they are untidy saints.

Noah - got drunk on wine, exposed himself and put a terrible curse on one of his grand-children (Canaan).

Abraham - had sex with his wife's maid and fathered a child out of wedlock and also twice let other men capture Sarah while standing by and saying she was his "sister".

Isaac - had an out of control son in Esau who married two non-Christian wives.

Jacob - had two wives and dysfunctional children, who sold their brother into slavery and Levi and Simeon were cruel to animals.

Joseph - practiced divination with a cup, did time in prison, married a non-believer.

Moses - committed murder, had a bad temper, divorced Zipporah and married a black woman from Ethiopia, was banned from the Promised Land for flying into a rage.

Aaron - helped build the Golden Calf.

Joshua - spent forty years wandering around in the desert, did the deal with the Gibeonites.

Rahab - was a prostitute.

Samson - married a Philistine woman, had numerous affairs, lived a wild life, died in jail.

Samuel - had wayward children who failed to follow the Lord.

Saul -went raving mad and was cast off by God for failing to obey orders.

David - had fourteen wives, committed adultery and murder.

Solomon - had 300 wives and 700 concubines and became a despotic ruler who introduced slave labor and eventually also built idol temples in Israel to please his wives.

Elijah - probably single, lived alone with a widow for a while, bizarre lifestyle, killed 800 prophets of Baal, prone to depression.

Elisha - again probably single, and again lived with a widow and her son.

Jonah - ran away from God's call and complained when God was merciful.

Isaiah - went around for three years naked, with his buttocks uncovered (Isaiah 20).

Jeremiah - single, melancholic, prone to complain against God, spent chunks of time in prison.

Hosea - married Gomer who was a prostitute and who left him, terrible marriage.

Daniel - probably single, was the head of the astrology guild in Babylon.

Most of the prophets - lived in terrible poverty and persecution and were often killed.

John the Baptist - single, imprisoned, bizarre lifestyle, a “social drop-out”.

Matthew - compromised with the Romans to be a tax-collector.

Mark- Quit and went home on a missions trip with Paul.

Luke - led a highly itinerant life alongside Paul.

John - went silent for about 50 plus years after his brother James was executed. Had a fiery temper, jailed on Patmos.

Mary - pregnant before marriage.

Jesus - single, died young, crucified as a criminal, lived off other people's support.

Paul - single and probably divorced, lots of jail time, persecuted the church, caused riots.

Peter - uneducated, denied Christ, up and down emotionally, joined with the Judaizers at Antioch.

Mary Magdalene - had seven demons, may have been a prostitute.

Barnabas - probably single, joined with the Judaizers at Antioch.

Timothy - suffered from timidity and ill-health and was probably single.

James (son of Zebedee) - imprisoned and beheaded, died single.

James the brother of Jesus - late to believe in Jesus, legalistic, may have split off the Jerusalem church from the Gentile Church.

None of these heroes of faith lived in the nice house on the hill with the manicured lawn. None, zero, zip. They all had messy, different, non-traditional lives. But God loved them, and the Holy Spirit used them. Few if any would pass the requirements for ordination with any major denomination today or be called to a large church. (This is not meant to be in any way a criticism of those who are ordained today).

If you are clever enough and good enough to have things together then perhaps you should be helping orphans in Africa and getting a bit “messier”. Tidy is often safe and often selfish. The Pharisees were very good at being respectable, neat, tidy and wealthy (Matthew 23 and Luke 16) - but Jesus called then "sons of the Devil". God wants us out there, taking risks, living by faith, engaging with this world, and that can mess things up a bit!

If you are a person whose life has been untidy in some way, then take heart, you are not written off, God may still have some very important work for you to do. God selects people by grace, by His election, not by social standards of perfection. Take the following verses from Paul's epistle to the Corinthians as an indicator of how God “draws straight lines with bent sticks”:

1 Corinthians 1:25-31 MKJV (25) Because the foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and the weak thing of God is stronger than men. (26) For you see your calling, brothers, that not many wise men according to the flesh are called, not many mighty, not many noble. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) and God has chosen the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, in order to bring to nothing things that are; (29) so that no flesh should glory in His presence. (30) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; (31) so that, according as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.