“Blessed are the sat upon, the spat upon, the ratted on.” -Simon and Garfunkel
Do you know any one who always seems to live on the Fringe? They seem to function continually in the more random places of their imaginations? Within the Christian circles there seem to always be a handful of ‘Fringe’ in every Church. Fringe, not as in those we might consider being innovative or continually ahead of the curve for trying new things or change for the sake of the Gospel. Fringe, not as in seemingly ready to take any risk, abandon everything, go anywhere to serve others (although there sadly seems as if there is ONLY a handful of this type of Fringe in every church as well). No, Fringe as in those who seem to live their spiritual life and almost their entire spiritual identity in the ‘fringe’ elements of what it means to be a Christ follower. You begin to have a conversation with them about the Bible, the community, the Church, the weather, or their favorite color – it doesn’t matter what the topic is- it all seems to lead to the same place for them…on the fringe.
They seem to spend their whole life energy in telling, or arguing with, the world about things like: Did Adam and Eve have a belly button? What was manna really made of? OR about their own spiritual escapades of being ‘kicked out’ of a church, a bar for obnoxious witnessing, a Bible study for telling everybody the ‘truth’, or how they stopped attending a denomination because everybody in that place was a bunch of political, manipulative, gossipy, never listen to ‘truth’, spiritual hypocrites,”and let me tell you about them”!
The FRINGE- is an easy enough place for us to arrive at; just ask someone what they think is wrong with the church, the system, the country, the family, etc. you will soon find your self in the off ramp heading to their fringe-ville! The problem becomes not finding the off ramp but getting back to the narrow way, the place of life. If you try to talk to someone who has been living in the fringe places of spiritual life about the core elements of life in Christ you discover something deeply disturbing; They seem unable to talk about the deeper elements of life in Christ- they keep shifting into one way streets that only lead in and out of their fringe identity.
In many ways this is what had happened on a mass scale in first century Israel. A nation who was living on the fringe of religious rules and regulations. A nation that defined self and others by sect and political alignments. A place that continually identified themselves by the fringe elements of spirituality. This is the place to which Jesus comes preaching “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!- And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”- Matt. 4:17,23
In these verses Matthew gives us a snap shot of what Jesus was all about- He came preaching/teaching and displaying the Kingdom- and calling, by these evidence, the nation (and by extension the world) to receive the Kingdom through repentance. If this is the case then it should not surprise us that the first criterion for being considered ‘favored’ or blessed for the kingdom is being ‘poor in spirit’.
Poverty of spirit is more then financial, economic or having serious resource limits. Although Jesus does point to the poor, the drunkard, the prostitute, the socially shunned and ignored, when he talks to the religious and says, “These are closer to the kingdom then you!” Why? Because their socio-economical circumstances tend to cause them to see the depth of their spiritual bankruptcy- with no bail out plan in sight!
What have you and I trusted in for our bail out plan spiritually? It is not until we have a spiritual shift of economics- admit that we are indeed fully bankrupt to make ourselves better- cry out to the King of grace for mercy and help, will we be able to even begin to understand and experience the wealth, hope, wholeness of the Kingdom!
If you call yourself a Christian- it must mean you recognized your hopeless without the King of Grace! You must have cried out in a sense of total bankruptcy- waiting on Him, at the cross to completely bail you out! The foot of the cross is the place of renewal in repentance. Poverty of spirit- “Cheer up your worse off then you figure…..” – some Christian song writer