Last year, almost a year to the date, I went to a two hour Christian seminar with my roommate. We had both been in a rough place and struggled in a season when we were tired of church, and churchy people, and churchy music, and Christian books. We lost interest in things that once fueled and filled us. Don’t get me wrong, we loved Jesus and knew Jesus loved us, we just felt burned by a lot. She angry and me significantly depressed and physically sick. We struggled with all things church-related feeling like “church” and “church activities” and “churchy people” felt nothing like the Jesus we knew or the Church we first loved. You’ve probably hit that point during some season of life. Most of us do.
Dr. E Stanley Jones says that the greatest hindrance to the Christian gospel in India is a dislike for western domination, western snobbery, the western theological system, western militarism and western race prejudice. Gandhi, the great prophet of India, said, “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity.” The embarrassing fact is that India judges us by our own professed standard.
The seminar was about discipleship. It was the first church-like thing I DESIRED to go to in over a year. The roommate thought it interesting. We both hoped it could restore to us some of the joy that had been lost in the preceding year. We wanted to be with people who were excited about Jesus, about caring for the marginalized, about breaking bread and eating with them. About REALLY living among them and becoming one in the same, and not just knowing of them or occasionally meeting with them for a pre-appointed period of time. The truth is, we desired this because we needed this sort of community in our lives.
In reply to a question of Dr. Jones as to how it would be possible to bring India to Christ, Gandhi replied: First, I would suggest that all of you Christians live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest that you practice your Christianity without adulterating it. The anomalous situation is that most of us would be equally shocked to see Christianity doubted or put into practice.
After the seminar, we got into the car and talked a little about it and what we enjoyed and appreciated about it. It was encouraging to meet more people who were similarly minded. So many young adults and some older adults who were passionate about Jesus AND caring for the “least of these”. People who were really doing something that had eternal significance in a way that resonated with the giftings and desires that roommate and I both had.
Roommate complained of the “long” 30 min drive home, of getting every red light imaginable, of being hungry and having to work in the morning. I sat silent in protest, frustrated at how much she was complaining. My attitude was not right. We were about 10 min from our home and hit another red light.
Third, I would suggest that you put more emphasis on love, for love is the soul and center of Christianity. Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.- Ghandi
There was an old man (or woman, we honestly couldn’t tell) pushing a grocery cart across the road. It was 10:30Pm. He or she had probably 8 layers of “clothing” on. Truth is, it didn’t look like clothing. It looked like brown rags strung together over and over again, ratty and torn. This person had random items tied to the cart with the same dirt clad material he/she was wearing. And no shoes. It was April and he/she wasn’t wearing shoes!
Jesus said in Matthew 25 that he was going to get rid of the “play it safers” who won’t go out on a limb. They would be thrown into darkness. He would separate the sheep and goats, putting the sheep to right and the goats would be tossed away.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.
Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
There have been many times in my life when I’ve been the overlooked and ignored one, where I’ve been the “least of these”. I’ve been hurt and injured and needing. I was the hungry. I was the thirsty. I was homeless. I was shivering. I was sick. And I was in prison to my own concepts of who I had been told I was. And sometimes people came to me and loved me, imperfectly and well. They gave.
So roommate and I are at this stop light. This very homeless person is walking across at 10:30PM with not another car or person anywhere near. It’s almost too perfect to be true. There’s a nudge in me. Roommate and I are dead silent, as if we are both aware we are supposed to do something but not sure what. I had nothing to offer but my flip flops on my feet. I felt the nudge. I reached for the door, but slinked back several times.
The light eventually turned green. We continued on, roommate in a rush to get home and me feeling like a hypocrite. Never had I been so sure of a prompting from Jesus. And I allowed fear to grip me. I was a “play it safer” in that moment. I ignored the overlooked. I pretended this person didn’t exist because I had much fear. And I felt intense grief because of it. I mourned the lack of Jesus in my own heart.
In that moment, I was a goat, not a sheep of Jesus. So much of the disdain I had for the “churchy” way of life, I had somehow become and I grieved that. I wept, alone in my room. And I begged God to change my heart. I had a lot to learn.
I don’t know what I’d do in that situation again, a year later. I hope I have a deeper love for Jesus and his Kingdom than I did a year ago. I hope I’m more scandalous and giving and extravagant in how I live. I hope some of the things I do and ways I give and love don’t make sense to others in a way that honors Jesus. I hope I have endurance and trust in Jesus to decide not to walk away, from the marginalized, from the struggling, from hard relationships, from the things in life that make us want to quit. The truth is, I am weaker and more afraid then I want to be.
The grief I had from saying no to the prompting of the Spirit was unlike anything I had experienced before. I had to admit that I was not so different from the same “churchiness” I was struggling against and I had to admit it to Jesus. But He didn’t leave me in that messy, hypocritical place. Jesus taught me to mourn the lack of Jesus in my very own heart, and by doing so I realize more keenly how much messy, sticky, self-righteous junk is still in there. I need Jesus. Every hour I need Jesus.