The Benefits of Being an Outsider

One of my favorite people in the whole wide world is in a free fall. After years of sobriety, he has relapsed. I feel so very, very sad. Until I think about his faith. This guy believes that God loves him and he is deeply spiritual. He understands that God loves “the sorry people”. He’s in bad shape AND God is in the business of restoring broken people. No problemo. The cynics among us might scoff at this. In fact, just the other day another person I know said this: “Well, he couldn’t have loved Jesus as much as he said he did if he has gone off and gotten back on the sauce.” Big, big sigh.

Can we talk about this? If loving Jesus served as a spiritual vaccine against doing stuff that goes against our core values, then we would NOT have so many church folk doing hood rat stuff - like having affairs, watching porn (at work, even at work being a pastor), abusing others, stealing from the petty cash drawer, getting divorced, etc. I’m not judging the sin here - but I am just pointing out reality. Loving Jesus doesn’t stop us from messing up. So why in the name of all things holy do we think it provides an insurance policy against relapse?

But...just because Jesus is not the equivalent of a vaccine against going against our own values does NOT mean our faith is of no value. It just shows up in a different form.

Right now my friend is on the street buying drugs from folks he once tried to help get sober. He is a serious outsider, isolated from his tribe of recovery warriors. But drug dealers will sell to anyone. People are talking. They are saying that the guy who used to help them is now in need of help himself. Can you imagine how nervous they feel? Their leader now needs a good shepherd to guide him back home. Everyone is just sick over the situation. I just want him to come back home. No judgment here, brother, Just. Come. Home.

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

Matthew 9:12-13 The Message

Success and isolation

From yesterday:  What we "want" is not the only factor in formulating a vision for success and meaning in life- we need to find a way to take into account our friends, families, and communities, their needs, and their desires, in order for the pursuit of success to add meaning to our lives.  Click here to get caught up.


The workplace is merely one aspect of life.  It can never offer complete meaning because no single thing can.  If our view of success is limited to the workplace then we will live isolated lives.  I do not mean isolation strictly in terms of people or community (as we discussed yesterday)- but the general experience of disconnectedness that results from such a  singularly focused pursuit.  The primary disconnect is internal- it is the realization that our lives are somehow less than they otherwise might be.  The consequence is that we will live as disconnected people, disconnected from our family, friends, and communities.  We will not be whole.  As a result we will struggle to find lasting hope, joy, and meaning. 


I'm of the opinion (as always, I could be wrong) that becoming a successful person is the result of living as a unified, whole person.  Take, for instance, the opposite:  Steve Jobs.  Jobs relentlessly pursued one thing with his life and, in a traditional sense, was highly successful.  He had wealth and prestige by the truckload.  And, yet, by all accounts, he was a miserable sod who burned every relational bridge in his life. 


I'm not here to judge Steve Jobs, but he serves as a perfect object lesson for my point:  if we're too narrowly focused on one thing in life we will not live up to our calling to become as human as we possibly can.  And so, we must continue to reframe success.