got a letter through the post from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (as you do!) and I was struck by the writing around the crest of the Archbishop of York, which read “The unworthy servant of the most worthy God”…
This made me think.
Firstly I liked the humility of this, but then I began to feel a little uncomfortable.
When we see the worth and worthiness of Christ, we know that by comparison, “we are not worthy even to eat the crumbs from under his table”.
I think that too often we as Christians, and we as Church leaders, put up a veneer of being ‘sorted’, ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’, yet the truth is we all suffer and struggle with sin, all that happens -sometimes- as Christians is we get better at covering it up!
Our struggle with sin, is an on going an daily battle, not something we used to struggle with before becoming a Christian. Although this is never the message we actually say, sometimes it is the message we inadvertently give off.
We ALL sin, if in any doubt check out Paul’s struggles in Romans 7… We are all conflicted with the person we know we should be -and want to be- and who we actually are.
Ironically living up to peoples expectations of being sinless is more likely to push you into sin!
One thing I learned whilst working with drug addicts and alcoholics was that of leadership from a point of both brokenness and recovery, the councillors -former addicts themselves- were both messengers of hope and of struggle, beauty and brokenness. I love Henri Nowen’s description of Christian leadership as that of being a wounded healer.
I grew up in a Church that was very much focused on the cross, on sin, on the need for repentance and faith. Yet the problem with this form of Christianity was sometimes it didn’t feel like ‘good news’, it felt condemning, and the default setting placed the emphasis on my sin rather than on my Saviour.
Guilt, shame and unworthiness were part of my mind-set, which I thought was what God wanted me to feel, but verses like “there is now no condemnation in Christ” I struggled to personalise and allow to alter my own perception on myself.
Yet it was through the charismatic renewal movement that I really discovered that no only had the price been paid for my sin, but that I -me- was loved.
God saw me through the lenses of the cross and of his wonderful grace… God saw me as his beloved child, precious and valuable, my worth was extreme -that God himself would die for me.
This answered those real and deep questions of identity. A movement which talks a lot about our identity, about being anointed and empowered, about knowing the Father and his heart for us.
I stopped using words like unworthy, as although I know I am, I also don’t think it is helpful, I need more often to be reminded of grace, forgiveness and faithfulness, rather than living in a place of condemnation and almost self flagellation.
I think when we beat ourselves up, we say to ourselves that we are useless, we are failures and God can’t use us, the truth is that (although this is still true) grace speakers a louder and truer word that we can still be used despite our faults and failings, that no one is useless to a God who delights to work with his children.
Even at our worst and our most rebellious God’s love for us remains faithful and constant.
If I were redesigning the archbishops crest I would write “I maybe an unworthy servant, made worthy by the love omost worthy Lord Jesus Christ”.