Back then I thought that in order to be a “good” Christian, I needed to remove myself from anything that looked evil, smelled evil, acted evil, appeared to be evil. No one pounded that thought into my head. Instead, my need to be perfect, my need to be the best, my need to feel loved by God drove me to that thought process. In other words, the better I was, the holier I could be, the more spiritual I could appear, I was sure that would put me in His good graces and He would lavish all kinds of love on me.
I thought that if I associated with anyone who didn’t believe like I believed, who didn’t live like I lived, then people would automatically assume — GASP!! — I was one of them. Even God would probably disown me, be disappointed in me and even love me less.
Well, that was then. And this is now.
Now, I find myself wanting to dig into the trenches of the hurting, the wounded, the evil, the messed up, the brokenhearted. I find myself longing to get to them, to meet them where they are and to show them the way out.
With the passing of America’s Pastor, Billy Graham, I found myself just incredibly weepy and deeply contemplative. Whenever I opened up a story or news article or watched a video feed of something he did or said, this weight would drop on me. I felt this urge to rush out into the streets and just start proclaiming Jesus, His death and resurrection, and the ultimate love of the Father who wants to bring us all into His family. I began to reflect more on the fact that I need to be bolder and braver and even more willing to do whatever He asks, even if it freaked me out, pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone or even cost something dear to me. Was I that willing? Would I risk it all for Him? Was saving one soul from hell worth that to me?
These are the things I’ve been pondering these last 2 weeks. Not that I haven’t pondered them before, but something in Rev. Graham’s passing has caused me to rethink, re-evaluate and re-determine what my purpose is in this thing called life.
Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG)
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Friend, if our hands aren’t getting dirty, if our hearts aren’t heavy with compassion for them, then we are not living the life that Christ intended us to live.
But that life? It requires sacrifice, time, and coming alongside of someone who is deep in the mire of their crap. It means I have to be willing to stick it out for the long haul, not for the quick fix. It means that I must be willing to build relationship with that person. And no, I don’t mean you have to be everyone’s best friend. But you must be willing to build a relationship, to build trust, to be transparent and authentic. If you can’t be those things, then your Christian journey is nothing but a religious walk.
Romans 15:1-5 (MSG)
Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all.
How many times have we looked at the faults and weaknesses of others and, instead of stepping in to lend a hand, have sat back and judged that person to make ourselves feel or look better in our own eyes? God forgive us. God forgive us for being holier-than-thou. Forgive us, Papa, for not being willing to get down in the pit with them and help bring them out.
The more I walk this journey with Jesus, the more I realize that all of the discipling and advancing the kingdom isn’t going to happen just in church on Sundays. The majority of it must happen right where we live and work and play. In our communities. Our neighborhoods. Our schools. Our businesses.
How do we do that?
Well, I don’t have a great 1-2-3 perfect answer. It will look different for all of us. Some of us will be bold and pray with strangers. Others will take time to build relationship with a person before we minister to them. And then there will be those who just dive in head first and do it all because they are just ready to give it all away no matter the cost. Whatever it looks like for you, it must be your sold-out heart to Jesus that drives you to reach the lost and hurting at any cost.
What does that look like?
First and foremost we must have the spirit of God living and breathing inside of us and operating through us. Secondly, we must be willing to be out and about – in the marketplace, at the local boutique, at the grocery store, in our schools, at our neighbor’s, wherever there are hurting people – and meet people where they are. Thirdly, we must be dedicated to bringing hope, healing and salvation to those around us. Finally, we must be willing to say the big YES to God. We must be willing to lay it all down so that we can help others find their way to His Family. Our family.
Are you ready?
I don’t know about you, but I truly believe something is shifting in the atmosphere. God is raising up people who will do this without hesitation, without desire for fame or promotion or titles. I want to be one of those people. Do you?