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Lead me (when I'm in the mood to be led)

Wandering Heart Series

March 17, 2024

Megan Collins

Dave and I are fans of the show “The Office.” Have you seen it? It’s a fictional show about the staff at a paper company called Dunder Mifflin in Pennsylvania. There is one character, Ryan, who I love to hate. But Ryan also has one of the most relatable quotes the entire show. He is doing an interview during a time when the boss told him what to do and he says this:

"I got away with everything under the last boss and it wasn’t good for me at all. So I want guidance, I want leadership. But don’t like boss me around, you know? Like, lead me. Lead me when I’m in the mood to be led." - Ryan Howard

That is absolutely us, with God.

We think, “All right Jesus. I’ve been trying this on my own. But, strangely enough, it’s not working out for me. It’s not good for me at all. I’m letting other things in my life be the boss - my own ideas, the opinions of the people around me, whatever sounds good to me at the time. The way I have been going has gotten me in trouble. I don’t know what to do. Jesus, I want guidance, I want leadership."

Then we flip to the gospels in our Bible and read what Jesus taught. Jesus didn’t teach about every specific issue we are facing, but he did have a lot of teaching for us to consider. We read what Jesus taught and then . . . we start to pull back. 

Like don’t, boss me around, Jesus, you know?

Maybe I should just do this on my own. Maybe I don’t need to do it the way Jesus said to do it. I don’t feel like trying it your way today. 

Like, lead me, but lead me when I’m in the mood to be led.

We are not always great at doing what Jesus said we should do. 

But why? Why would we look to what Jesus taught for answers, and then ignore it? 

I have a theory. I think we do this because we look at what Jesus taught and we don’t always like what we find. Jesus tells us to do a lot of things we don’t want to do. 

Repent (Matthew 4:17)

I don’t love thinking about all the ways I have messed up. That makes me feel bad about myself.

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)

Jesus, if you met my actual neighbor, you would understand why this is so hard. When we expand the definition of neighbor to include everyone, that makes it impossible.

Deny yourself and take up your cross (Luke 9:23-24)

That sounds hard.

Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)

And look like a wimp? No way.

Do not worry (Matthew 6:25)

Impossible. Worrying is my favorite hobby. 

Do not judge (Matt 7:1-2)

But judging other people makes me feel better about myself.  

Love your enemies (Matt 5:44)

Hard pass. 

These are just some of the things Jesus tells us directly to do. There are also allll the other teachings we love to ignore. 

You cannot serve God and wealth. (Luke 16:13) 

But I’m not serving wealth. I’m just thinking about money, all the time . . . and orienting my life around the constant pursuit of money. 

Looking with lust is committing adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28)

Some of you just got uncomfortable. 

Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers (Matthew 5:3-9)

Meek? Merciful? Peacemaker? How would that person survive in our world today?

And on and on we go. 

We come to Jesus and say “Lead me, but don’t boss me around. Lead me, but when I’m in the mood to be led.”  Then Jesus says  repent, serve, love, give, sacrifice. That’s great, but we were more looking for a validation of the things we were already doing. We like the part where Jesus loves us unconditionally. But that other stuff feels . . . hard. 

It’s not that we don’t know what Jesus tells us to do.

It’s that we don’t like it.

We don’t want to do it. 

Here’s something to consider. Just because you don’t like what Jesus said, that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

What if, just for the sake of argument, Jesus knows what he is talking about? 

This doesn’t mean you have to do it. You absolutely have the right to completely ignore what Jesus said. Don’t boss me around. Lead me when I want to be led. You don’t have to listen to him. But what if, what if, it could help?

During Lent we have been following the life of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, in our series Wandering Heart. We love Peter because Peter is us. He has these great moments of triumph, and then just as many moments of self sabotage and doubt. This week, we find Peter being taught by Jesus (Matthew 18:15-22). The topic is exactly the kind of thing we come looking to Jesus for guidance on. Jesus, if someone has done something wrong to me, what should I do? And here’s what Jesus says:

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.

Jesus says, before you go talk to everyone else about it, first, go to that person, one on one, to talk about what they did to you.

 If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If that doesn’t work, take one or two people with you to talk to them again (not a righteous mob, one or two people). These people are not your hype men. They aren’t there to stand behind you and be like “yeah - you did mess up!” They are there to be a part of the conversation, to see what the other person has to say, and to make sure what you are saying isn’t too harsh. 

 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; 

Then, if that doesn’t work, you get the church involved. 

and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.

This verse is one of those times when we have to read really carefully. Jesus is giving us an answer but we have to slow down to understand it. There is an element here of pushing someone out who has wronged you if they still don’t see the problem. We are totally here for that. Yeah, Jesus! They did something wrong, let’s shun them! Kick them to the curb! But then look at who Jesus lumps them in with - gentiles and tax collectors. These were people who were on the outside of the community, yes. But they were also people who Jesus continually pointed to as the recipients of their ministry. This is the same Jesus who taught about leaving all the other sheep to go find the one sheep who had wandered away. Gentiles and tax collectors weren’t just outsiders to Jesus. They were sheep who had wandered away from the herd, people who needed grace. Gentiles and tax collectors were the ones Jesus was seeking out to save. Hmmm.. that’s not quite as much shunning as we would like. Then Jesus keeps teaching: 

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’

We usually look at this verse when we talk about prayer. But think about the context of Jesus’ teaching here. He is talking about solving disputes by getting people together. This passage then is showing how these disputes are settled for people who follow Jesus. When two or three people who are in fight can agree, then it is taken care of. It’s settled. And no matter how difficult the conversation, when they get together, when two or three are gathered in his name, Jesus is right there in the midst of them. Good thing, because that’s the only way they’ll get through it. 

This is the kind of teaching from Jesus we love to ignore. We are mad at someone and we have tried dealing with it on our own. So far we’ve tried holding a grudge, talking about them behind their back, pretending they don’t exist. Jesus’ approach sounds like an awful lot of work and not nearly as satisfying as ignoring them. Apparently Peter is with us on this. Because he asks a follow up question: 

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’

Is there a limit, Jesus, to this forgiveness thing? Do I have to just let someone off the hook because they said they are sorry? Even if it doesn’t seem like they mean it? 

Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Jesus doesn’t have a long answer for Peter, partly because he had already told him the solution. Jesus already told Peter what to do if someone did something wrong to him. Jesus doesn’t say just sweep it under the rug and forget it. He says to work through this process, starting with a one on one conversation. But look closely at the numerical answer Jesus gives - seventy-seven times. This is likely a reference to a story about a man named Lamech in Genesis 4:24. Lamech is bent on revenge to people who have hurt them. When he is talking about the amount of revenge he is going to enact on the wrongdoers, he says it will be “seventy-seven fold.” Maybe you have been made enough at someone that you support Lamech on this. But Jesus is making it clear that revenge is not the right answer, that when someone does something wrong, the best approach is a series of intentional conversations, involving other people of faith if we need to, most likely ending in forgiveness.  

We talked about forgiveness just a few weeks ago. We know forgiveness is the right thing to do, and we know it is what Jesus tells us to do. We also talked about all the ways it makes your life better. It even makes you physically healthier to forgive. But we can know something is good for us and still not do it.  Don’t boss me around, Jesus. I’ll handle it my way. 

You can try it your way first. 

You don’t have to listen to what Jesus says to do. No one will force you.

Maybe you are mad at someone and trying to decide what to do about it. Maybe you are facing a big decision in your life. You have been thinking about all of your options. Your friends have weighed in but you’re still not sure. Maybe you are doing something you know you shouldn’t. You don’t want to be doing it, but you just can’t seem to kick it. Maybe your relationships aren’t good right now. You don’t know how you got here but it’s a mess and you’re just so angry. Maybe you can’t seem to get your life on track. You feel stuck. Then you think “this just isn’t working. I just can’t figure this out. I’ve tried everything I know to do.”

Jesus is there, ready to teach you.

The teachings we have from Jesus don’t answer every specific question we might have. 

Finding the answers we need isn’t always easy. It takes careful study and prayer and being in a community like this one where we learn together. But if you ask, Jesus will teach you.

You don’t have to like the answers Jesus gives.

You can just keep doing it your way. 

You don’t have to listen to what Jesus taught.

But what if he’s right?

What if following the teachings of Jesus could really turn things around for you? Even if you don’t like what Jesus taught, what do you have to lose by trying it? Your way isn’t working, so why not give it a shot?

What if you were in the mood to be lead? 


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