Sitting in Governor’s Cup recently, enjoying my morning java and Sudoku, I overheard the following conversation: Guy 1 says, “I don’t consider myself a Christian. I mean, I don’t like Christians so why would I be one? I like Christ though.” Guy 2 responds, “Well, I’m a Christian.”
Silence filled the conversation and, even though I was eavesdropping, I anxiously waited a response. But the conversation turned to other items in the news to ease the new awkwardness.
I have heard phrases before of those who say they follow Jesus but don’t want to be labeled as a Christian. Or even those who do not follow Jesus showing much disdain towards Christians. Sadly, I get it.
At one time Jesus said “all would know you are my disciples if you love one another.” For a moment, let’s just focus on Christians loving Christians within the local gathering of believers (churches). Hypocrisy runs deep as we find new and creative ways to gossip about others under the disguise of prayer. Churches have been torn apart by those that would take sides on an issue. We argue over the pettiest of things like paint color and song choice and easily get distracted from the things we should be thinking about: loving Jesus and loving others.
So, what is a Christian known for nowadays? Unfortunately, it’s not their love but often times, their hate. Having been a pastor for many years I have seen the slippery slope of loving those in the world slide down to focusing on self. It starts at the top with looking at the world outside of ourselves, seeing the needs, meeting those needs, making new friends and spreading the love of Christ to everyone. It ends with a vicious focus on “self” to make ourselves comfortable after putting in our dues of serving. It’s almost as if we gave followers of Christ permission to retire from the faith after they receive their “gold watch” of following after Christ for a few years.
I am not immune to this either.
Recently I was asked, along with others, to determine some of the bigger needs in the Salem-Keizer area. As we went around the table, many of the others were sharing big needs that they knew of, and even shared of how some of these big needs are being met from the church. I felt the circle closing in on me and as it tightened, I was beginning to sweat on the inside. I sat there and was dumbfounded that I could not think of one legitimate need within our community. What makes it so harsh for me is that I have always thought of myself as “cutting edge,” knowing what is going on in the world and how the church “should” operate to meet people’s needs. I could talk hours on spiritual matters and tell you how bad the world is and as I talked with my mouth flapping away, I would be saying nothing that mattered to my neighbor.
So, who is my neighbor? Jesus asked a similar question after talking to those gathered around him. He shared the story of the Good Samaritan. To sum up the story: a guy gets beaten up, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. A conservative religious person saw him and took off on the other side of the road, leaving him alone – probably on his way to a Bible study. A liberal religious person saw him and took off on the other side of the road, leaving him there – probably on the way to save a tree and all. But a loud, obnoxious, scar-faced, cigarette-wielding, cat-loving, country music playing, single mother of four on her way to collect her monthly food allowance from the state saw him and had compassion on him. She took care of him when no one else would. Jesus turned around and asked bluntly, “Which was a neighbor?”
Just as in the story that He shared, many people have good excuses for not loving and not taking care of people. Unless you actually take care of somebody, it doesn’t really mean anything. It seems that in this story, a good neighbor sees a need and extends a hand to meet that need. Not in a “look at me as I SERVE people” way but rather it should be done in the same way we were instructed to approach dangerous situations: “stop, look and listen”.
STOP – Stop worrying about your life for a few moments. You’re life should not be so busy that you can not see beyond your own self. Stop and ask God to remove the busyness.
LOOK – My bet is that there are many needs right in front of you that have simply been overlooked. Ask your neighbor, nearby school, or social service center. Many churches are looking seriously at the needs of their own neighborhoods, asking those churches near you might show some other areas where you can serve.
LISTEN – When you go to a needed situation, actually take the time to listen to what the need is and what they actually want. It does no good to give starving families free tickets to Disneyland when what they want is a good meal.
As I move from looking at myself and only the things that matter to me to looking at those around me, I will then see the opportunities to be like. I won’t be perfect. I will mess it up. I will be selfish. But by God’s strength, not my own, I will try. And as I try, the bad aroma that Christians have left of their own selfishness will be replaced by a more pleasing aroma of one who desires to honor and look to Jesus.
Randy’s not the intel guy, the dairy guy, or the preacher from Mission, Mississippi, He is, without a doubt, a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Randy has a beautiful wife of over 15 years and has two wonderful girls. Check him out at http://www.randymooney.com.