***This blog post is an edited version of one I posted in May of 2013. It is similar to my last blog post, Getting our hands, or car seats dirty, but I'm hoping to expound on it, though it may be a hodge-podge of "stuff":
I am including myself in this, but I've been wondering if most of us aren't completely missing it in the church. We have our families and our friends, our jobs and activities, and we so rarely go out of our way to help anyone, really help them, as lead them to Christ, or cause them to want to be Christians.
I read a great fiction book last month, The Gate by Dann Stouten. There was a conversation between Jesus and the main character in the book that I thought nails it:
Jesus: "As a Christian, your job isn't to bring people on earth to Heaven.. That is my job. Your job is to bring Heaven to the people on earth. To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, the crying, and the dying. When you do that, people will start asking 'Why? What's your motivation? What possible reason would you have for making that ...kind of sacrifice for me?' And when they start asking questions like that, then sharing your faith will be easy, then lives will be changed. It's simple really. Do that, and you'll change the world. Don't do that, and nothing will change. Like I said before, what you've done to the least of these, you've done to me"
And something else I read recently in Fearless by Mike Dellosso in the forward to the book:
In James Cameron’s 2009 hit Avatar the alien race greets
each other with the words “I see you.” During the course
of the movie we learn that those words mean more than they
appear to mean at first. To the Na’vi “I see you” is so much more
than acknowledging that an individual is present; it is to look
into their soul, to see them for who they really are, their character,
their passions, their hurts and fears and joys and dreams.
Interestingly native tribes in South Africa use the same greeting.It’s quite powerful when you think about it. We are a busy people, working, playing, texting, surfing; our minds are constantly occupied.
Yes, we’re surrounded by people we never really see. Oh, we see they’re there. They get in our way in line at the grocery store, cut us off on the highway, give us the wrong amount of change at the fast-food joint. But do we really see them? Mostly, no.
How radically it would change our lives if we saw those around us as not just bodies populating the landscape of our life, but as people with lives, with struggles and victories, as husbands trying desperately to provide for their family and wives exhausted from working and parenting and running here and there, as employees striving to do their best in a system that keeps expecting more for less.
What if we really saw those around us? What if we looked into their eyes and found the soul of them? How important would every connection be? Every word spoken? Every action portrayed?
And what if others knew that when we looked at them we saw so
much more than a body taking up space, that we saw them as a
precious creation, a person made in the image of God. A person.
I want to see people, really see them.
We used to sing a song at church:
"Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me;
And may I bravely do my part
To win that soul for Thee"
There are so many hurting people around us, but how willing our we to really do something about it? Some of them are across the street, next door, on the street corner, and even in our own church congregation. Jesus spent most of his ministry helping and loving people........ how much of our time is spent doing so? Do we really want to have a soul laid on our hearts to pray for, to love? Can we sing the above song..... and really mean it?
I was reading a fictional book the other night where white supremacists were finding young teenage boys that no one wanted and recruiting them - that does go on, and not just with white supremacists. Think of the difference we could make if these young people who are growing up without someone to love and care about them could be met by Christians who would take them under their wing instead of letting them be prey for evil, and headed for trouble.
About 13 years ago, I decided to try something new. I enrolled in the Big Brothers program. The boy who I got as my "little brother" was a scrawny quiet kid of 12. The first time I picked him up, I didn't think it would ever work, but it did. Once he started talking, he wouldn't quit. :-) I was his "big brother" for 4 years and loved it. I got into it to do something for someone else, but it helped me a lot. It was fun, but it involved sacrifices and time. I hate sports, but went to some of his basketball games for his sake. I went to some school band concerts that were OK, and not something I'd normally do, but he was playing in it, so I went. I spent a lot of time and money on him in 4 years, and I don't regret it at all. (His mom would often try to pay me back when I took him out to eat. I wouldn't let her) I was the main male role model in his life for 4 years, and I hope and pray I was the example I should be. His mom told me a while back that she credits me with the man he has turned out to be. I cried when I read that. And really, I didn't do much. I spent time with him, tried to do things he was interested in, loved him, spent some money on meals, mini golf, birthdays, Christmas, etc, but it felt great to do it. I'd love to do something like that again. I wish I could do more.
The thing is, so many of is don't get it. It is all about people. We can't take anything to heaven with us except for people, yet we are so busy doing things. And yes, we have lives and things we need to do, but when we stand before God and if we can have regrets, we are going to wish we had done more to help people find Jesus, and to make it to Heaven.
We're all busy, but we can still make time. My church has reading course books for the youth and for the missionary society. One year, I was in charge of the youth books. I had to try to get people to read them, keep track of where they were, and report at the end of the year how many people read each book. I got so sick of the excuse half the church gave me "I don't have time." I'd fume to my family later: "I bet if we'd ask them over Friday or Saturday night for pizza and games, they'd have time for that!" Were they being honest? Some of them, maybe, but we do make time for what we want to do. I'd rather they had just said they didn't want to read them.... that is what I do. :-)
I was talking to someone recently and was surprised by something they said. They told me they haven't professed to be a Christian for 3 years. Everyone in their church, and outside the church, just assumes they are where they should be with God. I thought "how sad." I'm not advocating going around taking everyone's spiritual temperature in the church, but if we can't see the people in our own church who are hurting and need encouragement and help, then how can we help people outside of the church........ though we need to do both.
If Jesus was walking the earth today, He would be out there helping people, putting feet to the Gospel. That is what He did when He was here. I am not saying we can't have fun and games, but He viewed people more important than that. Healing them, helping them, loving them. And it is still important.
Read Matthew 25:34-46 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
If I read those verses right, it sounds to me like helping people, showing them love, is pretty important to God. Important enough that he cast aside the people in the above verses that didn't do it.
As the first book quote said, if we love people and start putting actions to what we believe, we won't have to preach to people, they will want this Jesus we claim to be like and serve.
We can pay our tithe, keep all the commandments, go to church regularly, live an honest life with integrity, but if we don't reach out to others, we aren't being like Jesus at all.
In closing, I am not saying everyone is failing in this area. There are many people who are doing far more than their part, but I fear more of us are not doing what we should, than are. It would do us good to pray for God to send someone across our path that we can be Jesus to, to love, and help in any way we can. The sad truth is, most likely they are already there for many of us, and like the religious rulers in the story of the Good Samaritan, we walk on by and ignore them. We should take caution to only pray that prayer if we mean it. It will cost us some time, maybe money, and inconveniences.