Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You Do Any Work Today?

I wrote a post a couple days ago about the difference between atheists who love this life and Christians who also love this life. The main difference, as empirical evidence shows is that the former work to make their own lives more comfortable while the latter work to make the lives of others more comfortable.

Of course this is generally speaking. Exceptions can be found in both camps, yet the exceptions remain rare. So the question remains, Why? What happens to a person when s/he becomes a Christian that causes the focus to be taken off of ourselves and placed upon those around us? It certainly isn’t by effort or willpower. For those who try to “act” Christian through the use of effort, well, that rarely lasts for more than a decade. So, what is it that Jesus does to a person to make us stop worshiping ourselves and begin worshiping our Creator? The New Testament explains it this way. It is no longer we who live but Jesus lives in us. We become inhabited by the Spirit of our Creator, and our Creator said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to lay down my life for many.” This Spirit that now changes our very nature changes our interests from corrupted self-love to other-love, and that change truly is supernatural; it is not something that comes naturally to humans. There is no room for bragging here. The change is not FROM us. Rather, it happens TO us.

There was a wonderful post yesterday at http://bridge.whchurch.org/
It was written by a guy who’d spent a year in Afghanistan working with orphans. It’s called “Reflections from Afghanistan.” It’s worth a read regardless of your stand re: religion. For what it’s worth, he tells a story that makes an atheist look pretty insightful. Anyhow this story fits right in with something that Jesus once said.

“Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am there My servant will be also.”

Hmm, so where do we find Jesus? That’s right. The same places He was found while He was on earth. We find Him with the hungry, the rejected, the outcasts, the prostitutes and those struggling with alcoholism and other drug addictions. We find Jesus with the sick, with widows and orphans and with those on the fringes of society. We find Jesus with those from whom the rest of us would rather turn our gaze. We find Jesus in those very areas most typically founded and run by Christians; homeless shelters, food distribution programs, hostels for battered women, shelters for kids who have nowhere else to go. Did you know there was no such thing as a hospital until the early Christianity came along? Helping strangers in an organised manner was just not something that people did until Jesus entered our sphere. In fact, it was precisely the way that early Christians spent their time helping others that drew most people to Christianity. People could tell that there was something different about those who followed Jesus and the difference was good - real good. Until Christianity took hold, if you were sick or somehow disabled, you had one of three options. You could beg, you could depend on the largess of your family or you could pay for what passed as a doctor in those days.

I know. I know. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are a long, long way from drawing people to Jesus by the goodness of our behaviours. Our hypocrisy is an overwhelming stench to much of the world. Nevertheless, it has not reached the point whereby those in need have nowhere to turn for help. Jesus the Christ is still in the business of changing people’s characters for the better, and the character change that is most obvious to those who knew us in our pre Christian days is that we now care about others more than we care about ourselves. I remember meeting someone from my high school days. When she found out what I was doing for a living she replied, "YOU! You were the worst one!!" It was an involuntary comment that just came flying out and she immediately apologised but it demonstrates my point. Jesus changes us for the better.

There’s another interesting thing that Jesus said. “As you have done it to the least of these (those who are in need), you have done it to Me.” As the man who wrote about his time in Afghanistan, said, “I thought that it was just Jesus caring for the orphans through me. Instead, I was caring for Jesus through my caring for the orphans.”

So the question we can ask ourselves today is, did I do any work for Jesus today? Or did I look the other way?

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