Tag Archives: Commitment

Crossroads

Read Luke 6:43-49

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus said to everyone, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.’” (Luke 9:23-24 CEB).

CrossroadSince the recent attacks on Paris shocked the world, there has been a lot of debate on what the appropriate response to all of this is. What’s more, the current Syrian refugee crisis has come front and center as people realize the possibility that terrorists can blend in with the refugees and sneak into the countries who accept them in. Naturally, people are worried (and even afraid) of the dangers looming over the decision of letting minimally vetted people into their country.

Without doubt, many Christians have entered the debate coming from varying angles. Some Christians have argued that we either shouldn’t allow any refugees in or we should only allow Christians in. These Christians feel that, though they have sympathy toward the refugees, it is most important to protect our homeland and its citizens. Because there is no real way to adequately screen the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria, these Christians and many others (regardless of religious affiliation) fear that allowing such people in could have catestrophic and deadly consequences.

Many have argued that the Christian response would be to welcome them in. After all, God in the Hebrew Scriptures called the Israelites, and by extension us,  to be welcoming of and kind to foreigners and strangers. Also, Jesus called for such mercy and compassion toward others as well. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a few parables on the Kingdom of Heaven. The last parable describes God separating the faithful from the wicked, just as a king who separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep, being faithful, have lived lives of radical compassion and service toward all who are in need. The goats were wicked because, though they claimed to follow the king, they refused to live lives of radical compassion and service toward all who are in need.

The point of this is not to choose sides between the two options, or anything in between. That is not my job, nor my goal, in writing this devotion. That discernment is up to you, as a Christian or person of faith. The point I am trying to bring out, by highlighting this current issue, is that Christians today find themselves in a place where faith goes far beyond the pew on a Sunday morning. It is one thing to say, “I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus.” It is a completely different thing to deny yourself (e.g. your desires, your successes, your status, your hopes and your fears), pick up your cross, and follow Jesus.

Today, we find ourselves, ever increasingly, at crossroad not unlike what Jesus’ disciples and the earliest Christians found themselves at. Evil, injustice, and oppression are rearing their ugly heads in our world at alarming rates. No longer is it okay for Christians to be complacent as if the only thing that matters is “professing” Jesus’ name with their lips. That sort of “faith”, as James rightly exclaims, is dead! That is really no faith at all. What Christ is looking for, as is clear in the sheep/goats parable, is followers who are committed to LIVING out their faith in the world. Christ is looking for Christians who will seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Christ is looking for people who will resist the status quo like he did. He is calling us to stand against injustice, evil and oppression. He is calling us to be committed to radically compassionate service toward all of the “least of these”, regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or what others think of them or say about them. There can be no debate that this, for Jesus Christ, is what being his follower is all about.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.” – Jesus, the Christ (Matthew 7:13-14 CEB).

PRAYER
Lord, keep steering me toward the resurrected life of justice, mercy, compassion, humility and faithful action. Amen.

 

Calling it a Spade

Read Matthew 7:21-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Let anyone with ears listen!” (Mathew 13:9)

SpadeExcuses, excuses, excuses. This world is filled with them, isn’t it? And we don’t have to look too far to find a boat-full of excuses do we? The truth is that excuses flow from our mouths as much as they fill our ears. As a person, I have certainly made my share of excuses in my life. When I didn’t like a subject in school, I would come up with excuses as to why I COULD NOT succeed at it. In the past, I have excused myself for bad eating habits. I have excused myself for being in a bad mood, for having a bad attitude, for bad behavior and for a host of other things. It’s not that I am confessing something that would be surprising to anyone, whether they know me or not. If we are all to be completely honest with ourselves, everyone of us has made excuses for a variety of different things.

We Christians, it seems, are just as good at making excuses for ourselves as everyone else is. As someone who has both been in the church and has served the church in a host of different ways, I know the kinds of excuses that get made. For instance, when people are challenged to read the Bible more they will often come up with excuses such as, “I just don’t understand it,” or “Gee, I just don’t have the extra time to read it.” I hear excuses for why people can’t be a part of the life of the church, why they can’t lead in this way or that, why they can’t give more in one way or the other, and a whole host of excuses for not doing a variety of different things.

One excuse that really gets me is the one that people often make when it comes to living out the Gospel in their lives. It is quite clear when we read the Bible that Jesus called his disciples, and through them he called us, to live as he did. He calls us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors, including our enemies, as ourselves. Any preacher worth their weight in salt will most certainly preach that as one of the key components of the Gospel message and will challenge his or her congregants to answer that call; yet, when pressed, people will say, “Of course Jesus lived that way, he’s the Son of God. He was perfect…I’m not.”

I have always been one to call a spade a spade, and so I will be no different here. Not only is that an excuse, it is an affront to the Gospel and it goes against everything that Jesus taught and did. Jesus did not come to “show off” like some entertaining illusionist (though walking on water would be a neat trick to pull off); rather, Jesus lived the life that he was calling us all to join with him in living. In other words, Jesus does not buy our excuses and nor should we. We aren’t fooling God, even if we are fooling ourselves. I believe that, if we search deep down, we’ll find that we are not really fooling ourselves either.

Today’s challenge is to stop making excuses. Call things as they are. If God’s message of unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion really move and inspire you, then start living that kind of life. Don’t excuse yourself for not doing it; rather, really start trying to live that way. It’s not about being perfect, but about being sincere. If you don’t want to follow God and live as God created you to, then just be honest and say it. Don’t excuse yourself, for that doesn’t change the fact that you simply don’t want to. If, on the other hand, you love God and want to live as a child of God, then start doing it. Persevere in holy living, in living that is set apart for God, and you will see yourself opened to the transformative power of God and to the hidden possibilities that God has for you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

PRAYER

Lord, you know all things including the things about me that no one else knows. You know the life I’ve led and the real reasons why I have led it in the manner I have. I am not perfect, but I trust that through you I am being perfected. Strengthen me to be honest with myself and spark the desire in me to live as you have called me to live. Amen.