I have a friend named Amy. Amy and I are about the same age but we have different lifestyles. She is married and I am not. We met through a prayer group here in a Regina.
When Amy and I get together, our conversation starts off awkwardly. It starts off with cold small-talk. We talk about things we’re up to, about what’s happening in each other’s lives, yada yada yada. Luckily for us (because neither of us are good at small talk), the conversation veers off into what God is teaching us through his Word and what He’s doing in our lives. How he’s changing us. Amy is the kind of person who makes me want to study really lame and boring biblical text because she sees it differently. For example, I just finished the book of Leviticus because the last time I went out with Amy and her husband for brunch, she told me she was studying the book of Leviticus because her Dad was studying the book of Leviticus and he was studying the book of Leviticus because he was in a sermon series about the book of Leviticus that reveals it as a book of intimacy. A book of God’s love, not of do’s and don’t’s. So I started reading the book of Leviticus because I wanted to see if I could find evidence of God’s love and mercy the way Amy saw it. And I did. I found it after God killed Aaron’s sons for failing to follow the protocol he set out for his priests.
I know this sounds very counterintuitive because God just killed some people but He had to establish himself here. The Israelites are not listening. They are in a power struggle with Moses and they completely forgot about everything God did to get them out of slavery in Egypt (ie. parting the Red Sea, etc). So God is mad because the Israelites don’t respect him. He’s been very patient with them but they still aren’t getting the message so He has to assert himself. Which makes sense. How can we respect a God that has no standards? And if he had such high standards and didn’t follow through on the justice for breaking the law, then we certainly wouldn’t respect him because we’d think we could get away with murder and never be held accountable. But God doesn’t want to raise brats so he sets a very high standard for his people. And because the priests are the only ones permitted to come to the holiest part of his tent, the rules they follow are even stricter. So when Aaron’s sons fail to live up to those standards, even the smallest detail — just a tiny little sin, nobody’ll get hurt, just a little bit of disobedience– God follows through on what he says about being holy and kills them. And He makes this really bold statement that no sin, no matter how small, will be permitted near him or inside his tent. Because God is the creme de la creme.
Anyway, after his sons’ deaths, Aaron is not allowed to mourn (I don’t know why and I’m trying to find that out still). As a rather emotional person, I find that mind boggling and have no clue how Aaron managed that but he does and gets through it. Moses tells Aaron to eat the sin offering (a sacrifice the Israelites bring to pay for their sins; usually an animal or grain). Moses gets mad and asks Aaron why he didn’t eat the offering like he was supposed to (the priests are the only people allowed to eat the sacrifices) and Aaron asks if God would approve if ate the sin offering? How could he eat the sin offering when he’s being punished for his sin? Moses learns that Aaron disobeyed him because he didn’t want to offend God.
And it’s right here that Moses realizes that it’s working. God is changing the hearts of his people but he’s doing it in a tough-love kind of way. But what’s so cool about this part is the Lord doesn’t kill Aaron for his sin of disobedience to Moses (like He did to Aaron’s sons). I believe it’s because Aaron’s heart is more focused on pleasing God (even in his grief) than pleasing Moses. God shows mercy to Aaron. And Moses is humble enough to let God’s word be more important than his own because Moses cares more that his people love God than love him.
Also, another cool thing about the book of Leviticus is at the beginning, Moses isn’t allowed into the tent but by the book of Numbers, he’s able to enter the tent. So in the end the book of Leviticus kinda worked. A lot of animals and people had to die but eventually, the Israelites started listening to what God had to say (they screw up again later and God makes the perfect sacrifice of his Son so that everyone who believes in Jesus can enter the tent but that’s another story…).
ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say here is Amy is the kind of person who makes me want to study really boring books about God’s law so I can find God’s grace inside of it. I like talking with Amy because we can talk about the one thing that our world (should) revolve around — Jesus. Not our problems, not our losses, not other people’s weaknesses. Just Jesus.
Another example of fellowship I’ve had that’s been so bucket-filling is with Audra and Diane. We also met through a prayer group in Toronto. We’d meet to pray and then we’d sit for hours just talking and laughing. Audra and Diane are married (not to each other. They have different t husbands). Diane is a mother, Audra is not. Audra and Diane are African-Canadian/American. I am a single, white female. We grew up differently. Our worlds are different, our hair is different, our skin colour is different but when we get together to pray and talk about Jesus, we are the same. Generally, I leave our visits with a full heart because we talked about Jesus, prayed more than we complained and laughed till we cried.
The sermon today at church was the final one in a sermon series about church family. How it’s messy but worth it. And as most sermons go, I tend to self-reflect. Sometimes, too much. Anyway, I know I need to start spending time with more Christians. I would love it if I could find more women like Diane, Audra and Amy in Regina but I’m having a hard time finding women who actually want to talk about Jesus and nerd out about him. The problem isn’t the desire to join in, it’s the ‘are you safe? are you trustworthy? are you kind? are you able to listen? do you actually read the bible or do you pretend?’
I know people aren’t perfect and we hurt each other. But Christians who talk about Jesus more than they talk about people are the kinds of humans I’d like to spend time with. I want friends like that.