“I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it. Great encouragement have I, therefore, to be faithful in fulfilling the work He hath given me to do. His servant I am, and, as such, am employed according to the plain direction of His Word, ‘As I have opportunity, doing good unto all men’; and His providence clearly concurs with his Word; which has disengaged me from all things else, that I might singly attend on this very thing, ‘and go about doing good.’” ~ John Wesley (bold print mine)
I was talking with a friend who had two job interviews today. They were applying with some administrative assistant positions with the state and both panel groups asked the question, “Who is your customer?” The jobs she was applying for were primarily office positions meaning there was not a lot of overlap with traditional customers or vendors. Her answer was good, “My customers are my co-workers, my boss, etc…” I told her there is a much easier answer that communicate the same thing: “Everyone I come in contact is my customer.”
[Meh. I hate rewriting drafts. My original second paragraph took a weird tangent that probably should be explored but not here.]
When people know that you identify with a group, concept or place, an image is formed by how you live your life. This is true in about every facet of life to some degree. I personally identify as a follower of Jesus. That is one of the hardest things because there are so many versions of that image and I have to imagine (pun intended) that to those outside of this identity we look pretty stupid… or crazy… or crazy stupid. Generally, my views on some hot-button political issue or scientific theory either spurn the identity insiders and make common ground to the identity outsiders or vice versa. Part of it is the nature of the image of Jesus I identify with.
At a recent recovery meeting (Hi, my name is Mike and I struggle with anger, arrogance, an inferiority complex, gossip, and a bunch of other stuff), I heard someone say they thought when they went to work they were a functioning ________ (sorry, I am not supposed to reveal this in public. Feel free to ask me about recovery via email at email@example.com). In reality, everyone else knew by how they acted. The fact that this was around the same time as my friend’s interviews created a spark connection in my head.
I agree with the church fathers regarding imago dei, the image of God. When sin happened, the imago dei was not just broken, but shattered into infinite pieces. Slowly, humanity (by God’s grace) recovers the image of God by living in the steps of Jesus – loving one another just because.
When I go to work, I think I am a functioning with my struggles (e.g. anger, arrogance, inferiority complex, gossip), when in reality, everyone else knows because of how I act. So, if I am a functioning anything, I am functioning brokenness (sounds like a great name for a blog). No matter how much I try to be anything different, the image I help create of Jesus (and Christianity) is functioning brokenness. Another way of saying is that I will continue to create a shattered image or picture of Jesus because of my own shattered-ness.
The good news for me is that I am able to move beyond my shattered image of Jesus whenever I love others. Specifically whenever I make amends for my wrongs or forgive others for theirs. When amends and/or forgiveness is made, the imago dei is being recovered. I am still a shattered image. I am still functioning brokenness. However, the imago dei is starting to look less shattered and more like God’s image. This is super important as I move back to the whole customer concept.
Who is my customer? Everyone who I come in contact with. Why? Because all of us are functioning brokenness. If you will allow me to brashly tout my religious beliefs, everyone is my customer because we are all the shattered image of imago dei. Because of that, my cup overflows with those who I have hurt, who have hurt me, or who simply need a hug (my new phrase for people to love).
Sadly, this paragraph should never need to be published in any kind of written form, but unfortunately I feel it necessary. Just because I need to amend, forgive, or hug those around me, it is NOT my job to change them. The God who is reconciling the world to the Father through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit has that job. My job is to love. I know that there will be a few of my readers who I come in frequent contact that might wonder if I am trying to convert them to be followers of Jesus. My answer is, “No. Absolutely not.” Be who you are. Please don’t change because you know I’m a former pastor or a Christian. The secret is out: I will try my best to love you via amends, forgiveness, and hugs (hugs can also be conversations of things YOU like to discuss or hanging out at a FEEL SPECTRES show or whatever makes you feel alive… unless it is illegal… I try to avoid doing illegal).
I believe this to be the glad tidings of salvation that John Wesley talks about (at least for my context). This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it.