i originally wrote this post for the refuge blog in october 2007. when i was looking at a few old posts this week i stumbled across it and thought i’d repost it because most everyone here has never read it. it’s almost 3 years later and even though i am rarely around people who ask for more meat, i hear it now and then when i intersect with people in passing. they’ll declare, “oh, i really love this pastor because he really gives us meat!” and i always get in my car, chuckle a little bit, and think “um, yeah, sorry, but that’s not what he’s giving you…” enjoy. as always, would love to hear your thoughts!
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“i want some meat!”
“i wish we could get more meat!”
“we really need more meat!”
i know those of you who are struggling to buy groceries are thinking the same thing. but i’m talking about a different kind of meat that has nothing to do with grocery stores but everything to do with church. i have heard the cry for “meat” within the church ever since i became a true-blue evangelical church-going christian. when i entered into a season of spiritual and emotional healing about 14 years ago I remember demanding it myself. things started getting a little intense in my women’s group (people were really sharing honestly from their heart, not holding back, going the distance instead of faking it) and i told my group leader “i really wish we used the Bible more in here, i really want more meat! i really want to grow…” (i am now of course so embarrassed that I said this & after having seen the light a few years later confessed to her for not recognizing then that what we were doing in that little group was far more than just some stupid slab of spiritual meat—it was actually the whole cow!). but i was not alone in this kind of thinking. i hear it all the time, although now it is like nails on a chalkboard to me, maybe even like all of my children’s nails on a chalkboard all at once. and as you all know that is a lot of fingernails!
here’s what i think people mean by “meat.”
1. “Bible knowledge” – as in scripture verses and telling us exactly what they are supposed to mean. the more the better. a little bit of hebrew or greek translation adds the perfect spice.
2. “teaching” – teachers telling people what they think they need to learn or know in a very specific clear way so that we feel like we got a “lesson”, something motivating.
3. “certainty” – these are the facts and we are 100% certain that’s what this means and on top of that we are certain this is what you are supposed to do with this knowledge, too.
4. “a touch of shame” – some kind of moment that gets created when you think “now I’ll try harder….I need to be more godly…I am convicted and now this week I will get rid of that sin for good.”
while none of those things are inherently “wrong” what gets to me about all of them is they are sort of irrelevant to the gospel of Jesus. in fact, he said over and over to the religious leaders who had these 4 things mastered up and down, backwards & forwards, “ummm, guys, you are missing the point. here’s all that you need to do—be like me.” he didn’t say “go to a room, feed your belly with knowledge, get inspired and go home feeling spiritually fat.” he said, “hang out with the outcasts, the losers, the nonreligious, the prostitutues, the sick (oh, and by the way, that means you), get in touch with your brokenness & need for me and practice the way of self-sacrifice, generosity of spirit, humility and love. yes, my friends, this is what will change the world.”
i love the Bible. i think scripture can be transforming. but i also believe we have dismissed that true spiritual maturity is a life of serving others in tangible ways, humbling ourselves to the lowest place, giving up our comfort, money, time, pride for the sake of others. remember, the word of God became flesh, and that is what He did.
i think when we are honest what we really want is to be spoonfed spiritual milk and are terrified of true, tasty, Jesus steaks. most of the people i have been around through the years who demand “meat” are great, sincere believers. but usually their expressed desire for “meat” is actually them running for the safety of others who are more socially acceptable and sound more godly.
you see, the church has contaminated our taste buds. we have been taught to think that “spiritual” must include Bible knowledge, certainty, teaching, a touch of shame (and healing that looks like good behavior) so we keep seeking after it, church after church, Bible study after Bible study. but honestly, what it seems like to me is that people keep learning but never really apply much. we’re lonely but we never connect. we keep slipping in and out of services but never engage with a hurting person beyond “hi, nice to meet you.” we keep going to Bible studies & church meetings & services & prayer times hoping we’ll become more like Jesus and end up insulating ourselves more and more from the very places Jesus always was hanging out.
so here’s my soapbox mantra for the past 5 years or so, everytime I hear someone demand “meat”….“okay, no problem, look around. i see freezer after freezer full of it.”
reach out to someone in need no matter how messy it seems. help the poor. sacrifice your time and money. restore a broken relationship. love the outcast, especially the person that bugs the hell out of you. spend the time you waste watching TV investing in a person, no matter how young or old. stop nagging your spouse and change your behavior. serve someone else. open your home to others. force yourself to do something uncomfortable. get your head around the reality that you’re just as messed up as ‘those people’. humble yourself and let another person into your life. stay in a friendship for the long haul instead of running away.
and here’s what i believe usually happens next—never directly, always subtly—“nah, that kind of meat, i can do without. when does the next Bible study start?”
our taste buds have been contaminated. Jesus’ ways sometimes don’t initially taste too good going down. but for me, i have to say, nothing’s better than the aftertaste– the quiet moments when I notice where God’s spirit worked, what He is teaching me about me, life, humanity in the midst, and the beauty in the ugliness.
i know a lot of people think that at the refuge we are drinking milk. it sure tastes like steak to me.