Ok, I admit it.
I tend to put people up on pedestals.
Especially spiritual, righteous, religious people like pastors.
That’s what Dr. Willard says we should not do.
Today we are going to explore why he would advise us not to do this.
First of all, distance is a term I use when I refer to the level of understanding between one person and another. Distance is the amount of “space” between a speaker’s message and a listener’s comprehension. The more distance, the harder it is for the listener to understand, certainly to empathize.
I see this all the time in everyday life.
The person who says, “I could never do what you do” to the artist. The person who says “I don’t know why she said that” about the individual who has expressed outrage. The person who says “why did she go back?” to the young abused woman who has gone back to her abuser husband.
Examples of distance are everywhere.
Sometimes we like it. It is a comfortable cushion between us and others, a barrier to separate us from having to deal with problems we are too lazy to comprehend.
But when it comes to hearing God, distance is a killer.
Dr. Willard cites passages from Acts when the people in the crowd are stirred by Paul’s actions. They want to offer sacrifices because they think the gods have come to them in human form. The Apostles realize this and they say “we are mortals just like you.” [Acts 14: 11-15].
What are the Apostles doing?
Trying to decrease distance.
What are the people doing?
Trying to increase distance.
It is a common human response to see someone living a “righteous” life and saying “I can’t live like that.” The observer shrugs his or her shoulders, creates some distance and keeps on living the same old way they have been living.
It is easy, this distance thing.
It is denial of humanity just because some people have tapped into God’s will a little more. The person who seems to be connected to God spiritually is special.
Can anyone get that connection? Of course they can, but they have convinced themselves that they cannot.
It is easier to say “ I don’t have what it takes” than to develop what it takes.
There is one gigantic kicker in all this: the person who tries to develop “what it takes” is going to get an unbelievable reward.
They will find themselves more open to hearing from God.
The fact that we are human will not bar us from hearing God. Our lack of effort will bar us. Jesus was a human, God on earth. Dr. Willard lists Moses, David, Elijah, Paul, Peter etc. as example of humans who heard from God.
When confronted with his humanity, Jesus admitted it. What he had that you and I don’t have is a Divine connection. He was also God and He knew it. The plan that God had was to have a human [Jesus] on earth to connect with us and to show us that He [God] was approachable. Nothing else since the Garden of Eden had worked, so now he was using Jesus to send us a strong message.
The message is connect with Me.
The message is I am approachable.
The message is don’t create distance between yourself and Me.
Talk to me.
Don’t fall prey to that tendency to put people up on pedestals. When we do that, we have to shout up to them. When we want to touch them, they have to reach down and we have to strain to reach up.
It is ok to admire pastors. Don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent men and women out there, leading churches in a world that is not friendly to their work, inspiring people to come to God when there are countless distractions to take them away, preaching a message that is often ridiculed by people who just don’t understand.
They work for God, not man. They let God use them.
That in itself is admirable.
But don’t create distance. Many have been right where you have been. Some have been in worse places, yet they are right there, doing God’s work every day.
Before you think you can’t hear from God because you are unworthy, before you think you can’t do more in your life because people who work for God are special, you need to think about this list of spiritual celebrities [this has been around the block a time or two in Christian circles].
“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Zacchaeus was short, Abraham was old, and Lazarus was dead…. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!”
Let’s not put them on pedestals. Let’s try to be the best we can be and see if God can use us.