Vol 4:15 Mission and Leading Christ’s Community – Part 11: The Brokenness within God’s Mission

I do not know what to make of the brokenness within God’s leading, but it is there – and it provides a sobering perspective on how we go about leading.

I am in the midst of reading through the Scriptures once again, this time through the lens of The Message. Today I was reading a section from Genesis which included Genesis 38, a break in the story of Joseph, to tell about Judah, his affair with his daughter-in-law Tamar, and the birth of her twin sons by Judah, Perez and Zerah. What makes this interesting is not only that this is in Scripture, but that what happens here involving Judah and Tamar is a key aspect of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1.

In fact, as we look at Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, we do not have to read very far before we realize that his genealogy is filled with brokenness more than it is filled with people who are whole. And what is amazing to me is that God’s brings about God’s redemptive mission through the brokenness of humanity.

In reading from Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, we begin with Abraham, who obeyed God – seems like a great start. Abraham is followed by Isaac – still good. But then, we have Jacob, the second born of Isaac, whose name means deceiver (before it was changed to Israel – one who wrestles with God), who stole his older brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob is followed by Judah, a son not by the woman he loved, Rachel, but a son given to him by Leah, Rachel’s older sister, whom Jacob was deceived into marrying through a deception of his father-in-law Laban. And then Judah married a Canaanite woman, whose son married Tamar, but who died prematurely leaving Tamar a widow. As it turned out, Tamar deceived her father-in-law, who thought she was a prostitute, and she ended up bearing two children to Judah – Perez and Zerah, who are part of the lineage leading from Abraham to Jesus (see the whole story in Genesis 38).

It is worth going through the entire genealogy of Jesus to discover the brokenness that connects Abraham with Jesus. Why is there so much brokenness in God bringing about God’s redemptive purpose in making all things new? It seems to embrace the worst of humanity, rather than the best in humanity.

A mentor of mine, Donald Hagner, expresses that this is an expression of “. . . the sovereignty of God, who works out all things in accordance with [God’s] purpose and timing. . . . [especially with the] inclusion of irregular and . . . scandalous events . . .” (Hagner, Matthew 1-13, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 33a, p. 12). God shows us that God works in the midst of our brokenness to bring about new life; God resurrects life in the midst of the worst moments of our lives; life emanates from the context of all our living, even when our living is lived contrary to God’s purposes. God does not bestow life upon us from outside of our broken contexts, but from within our broken contexts.

That is why Jesus embraced us in our brokenness. He did not take on a sinless humanity, but embraced our humanity in all its brokenness (cf. Romans 8:3 – “God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity . . . .” In all this, in the midst of the brokenness of our humanity, God’s glory, God’s presence is revealed through the gracious and merciful presence of Jesus.

What does this say about our leading as we pastor the community of Jesus? What it says to me is that we are a community of broken people, trying to figure out how to love God and live in God’s ways, but realistically, we probably get it wrong more times than we get it right – as evidenced in Jesus’ genealogy. And it is likely, we also get it wrong more times than we get it right when we lead.

Perhaps the answer is to be found in another person within Jesus’ genealogy – King David – whose list of sins would seem him not to be identified as “a man after God’s own heart” (cf. Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). Rather than it all about having it all worked out, even having all of our leading worked out, it seems it is more important to have a heart that is wide-open to God. We recognize that we may blow it more than we get it right – and when we do, are we ready to admit our failings, our inabilities, or do we mask ourselves behind competence that is not really there?

Yes, there may be things that we do that should remove us from leading – if we act in ways which betray or deny, or break trust – but, even then, God still seems to depend upon murderers (for example, Moses and David) and ones who deny knowing Jesus (for example, Peter). So, it seems to me that there is more grace and mercy, even for me as a pastor in leading, than I am willing to extend to myself. So, perhaps I can begin to discover the depths of what leading entails when I do not try to hide who I am and realize that all I can be is a servant who is willing to be used of God for God’s purposes.

For me, this is the beginning point for coming to a very different understanding of what is involved in leadership in the body of Christ.

Too much of the way we have gone about leading has brought more harm, more violence to the communities we are called to pastor, to ourselves, and our families. I think it is time we began to undo the violence, the harm of leading within the church, by exercising leading that identifies and embraces the same brokenness within humanity that God seems to continue to do in carrying out God’s mission in the world. Such a way of leading can only be manifested as we live and lead, not relying upon ourselves, but learn to live as people after God’s own heart.

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl