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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chef Ramsey and the Love of God

My son recently got me to watch an episode of "Kitchen Disasters" with Chef Ramsey.  I have since watched at least ten of them (thanks to Netflix!).  Once I adjusted to the non-stop swearing, I found that I loved the show for a variety of reasons.  I wondered how my ministry and my leadership would hold up to an honest inspection by someone like Gordon Ramsey.  It woke me up to the fact that I had adopted many of the attitudes and practices that were undermining the success of these restaurants.  Unexpectedly, I also found in Chef Ramsey a type of Christ.  He showed up at highly dysfunctional restaurants and redeemed them, just as Christ enters our often highly dysfunctional lives and transforms them for our good.  Here are a few of the spiritual lessons I gleaned from the show.

1. God is for me.  Even though Chef Ramsey was clearly there to help, most people were too proud to listen to him.  They didn't want him to change their lives, they just wanted him to make their restaurant profitable.  I thought to myself.  How often am I just like that with Jesus?  He is for me, not against me.  He is there to help, yet I find myself fighting against what he wants to do with my life.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that doing things his way will ruin everything! I have my own dreams and my own inept way of doing things that I have gotten used to.  Sure, I want him to help me make my life work better, but I don't want him to change much - just tell me what a great "cook" I am and fix a few problems with the management of my life.  Chef Ramsey was blunt, decisive, and refused to back down, but it was because he was "for" these people.  He wanted more than just for their restaurants to work.  He wanted their lives to work.  Is Jesus any less concerned for us?

2. God calls us to repentance because he loves us.  Chef Ramsey was stubborn enough to deal with stubborn people.  A weaker person would have been over run by the huge anger and entrenched pride of some of these owners.  In a similar way, Jesus is the most stubborn person I know.  He has a stubborn love and he refuses to compromise with the stupidity in my life that is leading me to destruction.  He will let me do things my way but he is unbending with the consequences - unless I am willing to repent.  I saw this in every episode.  At some point, people would come to their senses, realize the chef was there to help and repent.  They would change their attitudes, humble themselves, and start moving in a new direction.  The one's who did, all made a success of their businesses.  The one's who didn't crashed and burned anyway.  I think it is like that with Jesus.  When he calls us to repent, he does it out of love.  He is for us.  He wants to see us build a life that works - an "abundant" life.

3. God calls us to forgive because he wants us to have joy in our relationships.  One of the unexpected themes of this show was the commitment to helping people forgive and move on.  Chef Ramsey proved to be an excellent listener and did a great job of validating emotions.  He was also relentless in making people deal with the issues that divided them not only as staff, but as families. In most episodes, the relational transformation brought about by honestly clearing the air and choosing to forgive was the turning point that made everything else work.  Without this, he didn't feel comfortable making the significant investment necessary to help them relaunch their restaurants.  I think God looks at it the same way.  He wants us to forgive because he wants to restore our relationships and help us find joy together as we pursue his kingdom.  

All of this also reminded me of what Jesus said in Revelation 3:19.  This verse is often neglected simply because the one that follows it is so famous ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock . . .").  It is also a verse that does not translate easily into English.  Let's take a look.

"Those Jesus loves (phileo)" - this is not the word agape which refers to the love that flows out of our character.  This is the word phileo from which we get "brotherly love."  It is a term of affection.  You might render this phrase, "Because Jesus feels such strong affection for you."  It is a good way of saying, "Jesus is for you, not against you."  I wonder how many of us believe that.

"He corrects and trains" - some versions render this, "He rebukes and disciplines" which has a much harsher feel to it.  One of the characteristics of the "Kitchen Disasters" show was the very blunt "correction" Chef Ramsey gave to the owners.  He told them when the food they thought was so great was below standard and unacceptable.  He also told them plainly which practices and attitudes were ruining their chances of success.  In the same way Jesus can seem harsh as he stubbornly confronts areas of our lives that are below standard and unacceptable.  But he is not doing this to punish us, shame us, or ruin our lives.  Nor is he doing this because he is on an ego trip.  He truly wants to help us change and this can't happen until we say about our issues what he says.  This is the meaning of confession - "to speak in agreement with."

The word "training" is a very specific word in Greek.  It is paideuo.  It refers to the work of training a child, breaking them of bad habits and building in them the skills to excel at the tasks of life. Again, it is the work of someone who is for us, of someone who wants us to succeed and knows that some firm guidance will be needed to help us get there.  I think of a personal trainer or a coach who pushes you past what you think you can do, but later you thank them for it.

"Be zealous therefore and repent." - The word zeal is related to passion.  One of the things I loved about Chef Ramsey's approach to helping people was his commitment to helping them rekindle their passion for what they were doing.  In the same way, Jesus wants us to live with zeal.  He wants us to love what we are doing so that we "do it with all our hearts."  Christ's call to repent is an impassioned plea to let him help us turn things around before we destroy ourselves.  One of the reasons so many people find Christ when their life falls apart is that it takes something dramatic to make them realize the path they are on isn't taking them where they wanted to go.  As the Proverb says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

When we put this altogether, we get a verse that reads, "Because Jesus feels such strong affection for you, he tells you plainly what you are doing wrong.  He then re-trains you as if you were a child who had never been equipped and disciplined to succeed in life.  He wants you to find your passion and repent of those things that are killing your heart and keeping you from experiencing and enjoying his love for you.

When I turned on the show "Kitchen Disasters," I wasn't expecting it to change my life.  I certainly wasn't expecting it to change my view of Christ, or teach me about the love of God, but it did.  I got to watch this flawed human with a big heart do for others exactly what Jesus wants to do for each one of us.

It may look like God is against you.  You may be mad at Him.  Many of the restaurant owners were mad at Chef Ramsey before they saw the results of what he was really doing for them.  There is no question that life can be unfair.  But be assured of this, however, God is for you.  When he calls you to repentance and forgiveness, He wants to restore your life, break you out of your misguided routines, and give your life a makeover that will restore your passion and grow your joy. That's just the sort of God He is.

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