What does it mean to be a follower of Christ – to be a disciple? I thought I knew. But two experiences over the last two weeks have altered my perception radically. I’d like to share them with you.
As my wife Jane and I prepared to leave for our mission trip to Guatemala, I was looking for a good book to read on the airplane and during any down time I might have. I decided now would be a good time to dust off The Hole in our Gospel, by World Vision president Richard Stearns. I had had it for months, but it just had not ascended to the top of my reading list.
I scanned the first few pages, and knew right away that it was a good choice. It became the third leg of a stool – the other two being the mission experience itself and the bible study of the book of Matthew we did that week – each one contributing to a powerful and impactful experience that I hope and pray can lead to a renewed and refreshed perspective on what it means to be a Christ follower.
Our mission was to a school near Guatemala City named Mi Refugio, started by a sold-out servant named Kari Engen. For an introduction to that the school is today, please watch these two videos. http://youtu.be/epXvLHkKNHQ and http://youtu.be/bSfrat3H2r0 . But for some real perspective on where it all began, watch the 60 minute “Children Living in the Dump” documentary.
Funny how my problems all start to just disappear when I realize how so many other human beings – people made in the image of God – would gladly eat the crumbs that fall from my table.
Some people ask God why he doesn’t do something about all the suffering. Through these experiences I now realize that God is asking us why we don’t do something. His job was to send His Son, to show us how we should live. Our job is to do what the Son says. If we did, the Kingdom would come, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Stearns points out that the words of the great commission (go and make disciples) cannot be fully understood without taking into account others such as Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25. Isaiah 58 says in part:
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Many Christians today seem to think that if they go to church worship services, treat other people with kindness and respect and pray, they are O.K. After all, they reason, Jesus said that the two most important commandments are to love God and your neighbor, and that “all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40) Yet when asked who our neighbor is, he answered with the parable of the prodigal son. In so doing, he affirmed, it seems to me, this passage from Isaiah. Your neighbor is anyone who has been yoked or oppressed, anyone who is hungry or in need of clothing or shelter. He is one who needs something you can help with, if only you make a decision not to pass by on the other side.
In spite of that, many believers continue to cling to the belief that they don’t have to DO anything in order to be saved. Some even believe that God chose them for eternity before the world began, and that there is nothing they can do, should do, or could do that would ever change that. It’s an age-old argument. But I do want to ask this: If that’s what you believe, what do you do with Matthew 25:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
We are saved BY grace through faith, but we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) And if we know what we are supposed to do, and we don’t do it, we will be the ones standing outside weeping and gnashing our teeth. Because He will say “I never knew you”.
Kari Engen is not one of those people. She has the kind of faith that I most admire. It is not easy to be a good Samaritan. It is even harder to be a full time missionary in a third-world country. Not everyone is called to the same mission. But we all have a mission. Most of us never find out what it is, because we never really submit ourselves to God’s will to see what it is. I don’t want to be one of those people.
How about you?