That Eccentric Uncle the Holy Spirit

fireWhat I am about to write is an analogy. I feel I must give a disclaimer for any of my relatives who may read this, and let them know that this analogy is not a personal one. The character talked about here does not have a present day twin in my family nor bears any resemblance to relations.

With that, I begin…

Maybe you know what I am about to talk about–those family get-togethers that are always awkward. There is always that one relative that makes things odd. I’ll call him the rich, eccentric uncle. You know you need to invite him because he’s family, and you want to invite him because he’s wealthy, and you want to stay on his good side in case you need some big cash someday. Certainly you want to be included in his will.

But really?? Why does he always have to be so odd when he comes?  He disrupts tradition, protocol, table manners, and re-routes conversations. He tells jokes at inopportune times, tells stories that make people cry, or sits eerily silent. Overall, he keeps everyone nervously guessing what he will do next. He’s not a bad guy, in fact he is really really nice. He’s just not “one of us” really, and we are all indifferent to him.

When I think about the Holy Spirit, this is the best analogy I can come up with to explain how the church of today treats Him. He is the Rich, Eccentric Uncle. I mean, He is the Third Person of the Trinity–so He is God, and He is close to the Father and to Jesus, so we really should invite Him to our gatherings. He has some great qualities, we’ve been told, and should we ever get into a pinch, we might need Him, so let’s not tick Him off. But really?? Why is His entrance into a room so…so…messy?  He doesn’t seem to care about tradition, or service order. He falls on that one with joy and they burst into laughter. On another He pours out healing, and they begin to weep…sometimes uncontrollably. Demons manifest in His presence, causing people to appear unruly. It’s as if He has no manners. Some people begin to cry out for mercy and forgiveness in His presence, while others begin confessing their sins and changing their behavior. Some people scream as if they are being baptized in fire. It really gets awkward.

We’ve read about “Doubting Thomas”, the disciple of Jesus who needed physical, concrete evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead, and asked to touch his wounded hands and side. A bit arrogantly, we might look back and scratch our heads at how Thomas could have been with Jesus for so many years, and still had doubt that Jesus was who He said He was. We are shocked that the Pharisees didn’t recognize Jesus as Messiah and welcome Him with open arms. Why was it so hard to see who Jesus really was? Wasn’t it obvious?

I believe that the same doubt and judgement that the disciples and Pharisees had is the  same reason you and I mis-judge the Holy Spirit. He is unconventional. He comes with His own agenda. His purpose is to fulfill the will of the Father, to make Jesus known. Like Eliazer, Abraham’s servant, His job is to prepare a bride for a Groom. He doesn’t bow to our traditions, or coddle our pride. He doesn’t answer to our protocol, or take our suggestions. He is God. He is on mission.

How can we draw near to a God we are indifferent to?

Do you remember Him? He is the gift that Jesus gave after He ascended into heaven. He is the One Jesus told us we needed desperately, and if Jesus didn’t go, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Jesus said that John baptized in water but that the Holy Spirit would baptize with fire. This Gift was so necessary, so vital, so essential to our survival and victory that Jesus commanded His disciples to put all of their life plans on pause and wait for the Holy Spirit. They were to gather in an upper room, and stay there until He came. (Acts chapter 1)

I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect when waiting for the Holy Spirit. I mean, Jesus came with skin on. He was a Jew, and grew up among them. What would the Holy Spirit look like? Would they recognize Him? Would he come knocking or should they leave the front door unlocked? Should someone get extra food to feed Him when He arrived? Where would He live? I’m sure the questions were many. But these disciples were now finally convinced that Jesus was God, and they knew that Jesus had something to give them that they could not afford to miss. They refused to let doubt, or judgment rob them from the Gift, and they made space in their schedules in order to make room for Him.

Why isn’t the same value placed on the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer today? Why aren’t we earnestly expectant for the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives? What about the lives of our children? Why do we talk about him like a comforter only maybe a step better than a couple of beers, a good movie, a long walk, or an illegal drug? Why do we value Him as someone we might need in a pinch but not really sure why? Why do we blame Him for the weird we see, but refuse to credit Him for the transformation He produces?

If we really knew who He was, we would sell everything we had if it could buy everything He is. We would stand in line for hours, days, or weeks to receive what He has for us. We would make sure our children knew Him and received everything from Him that He has to give them. We would make Him the Guest of Honor, and change our lives to revolve around His. If we really understood that He is the Power of God at work in us causing all options in our lives to change by producing miracles, healing, and deliverance; and if we knew that He is the Wisdom of God giving us power, help, clarity, invention, innovation, ideas, art, beauty, and creativity we would stop making our church services about ourselves, and instead turn them into “Upper Rooms” that were all about Him.

If we fully trusted His character, we would develop the most intimate of friendships with Him. Like John who laid his head on Jesus’ chest, we would so intermingle our hearts with the Holy Spirit’s heart that we would be afraid to offend Him more than we would fear offending others. We would spend our waking hours in conversations with Him, and our sleeping hours in the rest that His presence brings. We would learn what pleases the Father, and we would see people around us through the Holy Spirit’s lens. We would be moved with compassion to touch the untouchable, reach the unreachable, and love the unloveable.

If we really understood what the Holy Spirit possesses, we would stop treating Him like a crutch to be used when needed, but would understand He is the fountain of life that we need to drink from daily. We wouldn’t start a day without Him, and wouldn’t lose Him in the evening. We would make withdrawals on His power and heal the sick, cast out devils, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and preach the Gospel.

What happened to the Holy Spirit in our churches? We judged Him odd. We don’t like the kinds of crowds He attracts, and we don’t want our kids exposed to weird. We judged Him unfair–when we were younger we saw Him give gifts to people that we wanted, but didn’t receive. We judged Him unfit–He doesn’t quite mesh with our churches DNA, we are going for a more seeker-friendly model where people aren’t uncomfortable in our services.

If there is one clarion call I could give to the churches of my generation it would be this:  “Sell it all to have the Holy Spirit!” Our children don’t need comfort; they need power. Our cities don’t need “nice” they need transformation. Our families don’t need entertainment, they need a baptism of fire. The Holy Spirit is the promise of all of these things. He is here presently. He is the fullness of God. He is a gift, and you and I need to receive Him.