18 May 2013

Coffee with a King

If you think the idea of sitting down with God and having a cup of coffee sounds trite, or insanely informal, you may be right. Many assume some level of formality is synonymous with respect for God. Or even being accepted by God.

The world Jesus came into had a similar view, except more extreme. The idea of a personal connection with God in times of antiquity was mocked and considered blasphemous. In fact, the Jews of history had a formal relationship with God to the degree that some would not even speak Gods name out loud, it was considered disrespectful, even contemptuous. Some would even leave one letter out when writing his name out of an extreme sense of reverence.

It was in this state of mind that Jesus found humanity, especially the religious. But Jesus’ interaction with people contradicted this god-view with nearly actions alone. And surprisingly, with no demand for respect. Profoundly contrary to what people were used to, and for the first time in history, folks were faced with the idea of God as a personal friend.

Jesus dined with Gentiles, touched the diseased without care for his own health and fraternized with woman, all of which were forbidden for a Jew, all the more a Rabbi. Perhaps Jesus ate “unclean” food and maybe even had a cup of coffee to top off the meal. Who knows?

His point wasn’t to merely encourage Jews to try to hang out with a good ole Gentile now and then. To the contrary; his aim seemed to be to challenge our view of the way God sees us, mere humans. And not just through the lens of religion.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NIV

With Jesus’ unpredictable approach, God became familiar to the simple sinner, the non-religious, even the unclean gentile. Something us moderns take for granted. With no regard for societal rules, Jewish tradition, religious piety or ceremony; Jesus simply wanted to sit down and have a meal with his children, and maybe a cup of joe.

When I write about having a cup of coffee with God, I don’t mean that I brew an extra cup for Jesus, just in case you were wondering. But the imagery of having coffee with our Creator reminds me of the kind of friendship God wants with you and me; a real one. With our guard down and the gates of our hearts open.

This is what having a cup of coffee or tea with a friend has come to mean in our culture; opening up, being ourselves and connecting. This is fertile ground for any honest and healthy friendship.

But there’s an old saying; “familiarity breeds contempt”. So, it stirs the question; are we in danger of being contemptuous before God in such a familiar relationship? Well, yes. God has extended his hand of friendship from a holy place. So, the appropriate response needs to be understood.

A call to grace is a call into fellowship with our God. And that call into fellowship is a call to a holy life. We must seek to purify ourselves as we walk with Christ over time. Many treat grace as if it’s a license to frolic in our sin. “After all, grace will cover it” some might reason. While God loves and accepts us in our flawed state, he now begins the work of cleaning up our hearts. And to love God means to let him do this.

Maintaining both a common friendship and an appropriate respect for God is found in two veins; sharing the love with others that we know with God, and, maintaining a pure heart as we keep ourselves unstained from the world. In other words, humbly passing on the love and grace he’s given us, but also obeying God.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” 1 John 5:3 NIV

Therefore, we must make sure the life we live does not mock the very grace he calls us to. And this potential for contempt for God is expressed in a warning concerning the practice of communion;

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:27 NIV

Verse 29 “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

I’m no Theologian, but it’s my opinion that if we are living a life that is contrary to our call to grace and purity while seeking the presence and favor of God, we’ll bring judgment on ourselves. Our walk matters to God, even under the umbrella of grace. Or, should I say, all the more under the umbrella of grace.

So, if your intention is not to exploit the kindness of God, and you want a genuine connection with our generous and loving God, then relax and consider your time with God over a good cup of Jerusalem Java or Bethlehem Brew.

You must bring a sincere heart and enjoy a close and authentic relationship with your Savior, without the phony formality. And if you struggle with just how this very personal connection should go, think back to how easily he connected with people of his day; they just hung out, and ate, and drank. Remember what Christ said about himself;

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:30 NIV

Next time you want to connect with God like an old friend, or you want to connect for the first time, act like you would if you were meeting a good friend for coffee. Open up, be yourself and let your heart flow. “Just spill it” as a friend used to say.

And if it helps to be clutching a hot cup of coffee or tea, I don’t think God will mind. If God didn’t mind the company of unscrupulous business men, the contagiously diseased and those who sell their bodies for money, I don’t think he’ll mind if you have an actual cup of coffee in tow. Just make sure it’s fresh brewed, you’re having coffee with a King.