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Sitting in a Middle World Bar with Jesus

“I’m parched,” the guy said. “All this sitting on hillsides and talking …”

“Me, too,” said another guy. “And I’m not sure I agree with what you said.”

“Let’s get a beer,” said another guy.

Lots of nods from the rest of the crowd.

So they all tromped down the long hill into town, turning in at the first available watering hole, ‘Saul’s Suds.’

And then they went at it.

“I mean, turn the other cheek?”

“Yeah,” another broke in, “we’d get walked all over.”

A female voice piped up. “What they mean is that people would take advantage of us.”

“Is that bad?” the first guy asked.

They looked at him like he was crazy.

He just tossed off another long swig of beer, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, smacked his mug back on the counter, and looked at them one by one.

They were reduced to silence.

Well, everybody knew it was bad. Right? I mean, getting walked all over? Being a door mat? Of course it’s bad, isn’t it?

But how do you argue with a guy who says everything you always thought was right … isn’t? What do you say to a guy who offers no resistance to bad guys and yet smiles and laughs and acts like he’s the most secure guy in the world? Like he’s personally safe even though he says and does the most outrageous things? I mean, what he did in the temple the other day? And got away with? And just walked out right between the rulers and soldiers?

He was talking again.

Someone had said “…and that jacket was expensive! I’m not giving it away just because some dude wants it.”

“Do you think my father’s not rich enough to repay whatever you spent?”

“Yeah, but how will I keep warm in the meantime?”

“Is it so necessary that you should?”

Ya couldn’t talk to this guy. But we did. None of us left. We couldn’t stop listening. And asking questions. And getting our assumptions stomped on. This guy must be from a different world.

Ah. Oh, yeah. Maybe he is.

The middle world. I think that’s where He’s from. The one that’s not pretentious or impressed with its own piety. And the one that hasn’t given up on good and God altogether. It’s in the middle. It’s a place where bad people and the badness they do is recognized but not condoned. A place where good people can go and bring goodness in with them. It’s a place where neither good nor bad are disregarded or avoided. It’s a place where goodness overwhelms badness underwhelmingly.

What is this middle world, the world on a razor’s edge between good and bad? Let’s call it Real Life. Not fake ‘goodiness’ or acceptable ‘baddiness.’ Nobody’s real world can completely sanitize either good or evil. It’s just the way things really are because we live in an imperfect world that is overseen by a perfect God who will inevitably have the last word.

I was talking with my editor the other day, and she told me about one of her clients who had written a great Christian novel that contained some cursing and swearing because the author was reflecting the way real people in the real world talk. His agent loved the book but said he couldn’t give it to a Christian publisher. Because of the bad words. No Christian publisher would touch it. Of course, because of the Christian message, no secular publisher would touch it either.

Where is the middle world?

I’ve read some Christian fiction that was so saccharine it felt like ingesting a dozen of those big cotton candy sticks they sell at carnivals and so unrealistic it clearly came from some world other than my own. And, of course, I’ve read some fiction that was so acidic I thought my brain would dissolve, and so ‘realistic’ that it also had no chance of reflecting real reality.

My books are in the middle. Yes, some bad words. Even Christians encounter bad words in the real world of their daily lives, do they not? Yes some truth about the God of the Universe and the Savior of the world. Even secular people occasionally encounter the truth about God and His Son in the real world of their daily lives, do they not? “We need,” said my editor, “someone who will publish books like ours.” (She’s published over a hundred books). True. They’re books that may be shunned by many believers as well as many unbelievers. But then, so was Jesus.

So. Would you like to join the crusade for Middle World Publishing? I think Jesus might be on the board.

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