We are driven by what we see. Our smallest actions are driven by what’s visible to us. The dirty diaper that needs changing (okay, that’s a smell!); the mess on the counter, the mass of emails at work, the incomplete project – the list could go on and on. And we address them as we are able. Just reading that list can feel insurmountable, let alone tackling it. No wonder we struggle to see beyond it.
But what if we are meant for more than just ticking through everyday life? We serve our coworkers, family, and friends, but at what cost? What is it costing us, and is it a labor of love, or a labor of necessity? And are we adding unnecessary things to our lists?
I’ve been mulling this over lately. We are sold La-Z-Boy furniture, told to take it easy, told that our life is hard in one way or another. “You deserve it” rings through many a sales tactic, and we buy it – hook, line, and sinker. We buy things because we desire comfort and ease, or because they make us feel good. We say, “I deserve the ____ because I have worked hard.” And we choose rest over sacrifice because we believe we deserve rest and comfort.
But, for those of us who are in Christ, we are not called to easy things. No — we’re called to carry crosses; we are called into persecution; we are called to lay our very lives down. This is not theoretical, ethereal, analogical theology, it is the gospel, and it is our directive. To give every single thing up for Jesus. Every single thing.
That is radical. And so was Jesus. He told a zealot to accept a slap and offer his other cheek, rather than retaliate. He told oppressed Jewish people to serve their oppressors in a way that was radical; not only should they carry the Roman soldier’s equipment, they should go an extra mile – radical service beyond what a soldier could require of them (Matthew 5:38-42).
His kingdom isn’t just about avoiding damnation. It’s about redeeming this world, loving it well, and showing them who Elohim truly is. Jesus, and many of his disciples, laid their very lives down for the truth of the Kingdom and the King.
I’ve found myself wondering if this is how I am operating within the church. Am I taking risks to serve others, or am I doing what’s comfortable or convenient? Do we (you and I) settle for the easy things, and have we lowered our standards?
We attend church better when there are fun events happening; we show up primarily for the potlucks; we drop our kids off in childcare but don’t offer to serve there. We attend Bible Studies until our schedule feels like it is too much. We might give in the offering bowls, but we don’t serve and give with our lives and with our time. We don’t make this radical service that Jesus modeled and demands a priority in our lives. We take the salvation but leave the service. We absorb much and wring out little.
When we do see people serving like this, with every part of their lives, we see the impact it has on those around them: friends, family, community. But we excuse that from ourselves: we say we’re too busy; we can’t; that’s “their” thing; it’s not for me in this stage of life.
James 2:14-26 (CSB; emphasis mine) says this:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder. Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
The conviction is all around us if we ask the Spirit to reveal it, and I haven’t mastered this by any means. (As a matter of fact, typing and publishing this holds me to greater accountability because I have declared that I know what Jesus commands me to, and I have to live it out — Lord help me!)
Sisters, maybe you feel it in your bones also. Maybe the Holy Spirit is beckoning you to more. Maybe he is ready to show you more of himself when we become not just readers of the Scripture, but doers of it. May the conviction of the Holy Spirit be the driving force in us which leads us to live and love the way Jesus did, so we look at our lives and see His faithfulness to and through us.
Father, thank you for loving us as you have. You are our creator, you sustain us, and you cover us with more than we need. Show us how what you’ve given to us might be used to serve others, advance your kingdom, and spread the gospel. We want to honor the sacrifice and great love of Jesus; we don’t want to be takers, sitters, watchers; we want to be doers, lovers, servers. Change our hearts for your glory and your kingdom. Move our legs for us when we think we can’t. Speak the truth for us when we can’t find the words. Fight for us when we are weak, and be glorified in us! May every thought and deed revolve around you, Jesus. Amen.