Yes, I am aware it is Sunday morning and that many good souls would be in church right now. This good soul is feeling a little queezy, so as not to force a cleaning of my church's upholstery, I have opted to stay home. Still I have spent the morning reflecting on some of the challenges of this past week, and now that my 'post a new note' button decided to work, I wanted to share... with a ginger ale in one hand and a trash can in the other (lol).
We Christians have lost what it means to live a life following Christ. Somewhere along the line, the Christian life became cooshy. It became comfortable, complacent, even easy. Read my Bible- check. Say a prayer- check. Give an offering- check. Don't swear- check. Don't drink- check. check. check. check... done.
That view, present even in my own life, was challenged this past Tuesday. I remember the day very clearly because I was finishing up my devotional outline for Challengers on Tuesday night. Being that I work just outside of DC and it was Inauguration Day, most of our students were downtown for the 'historical occasion.' This left the school relatively quiet, and this teacher relatively bored. I searched through the school's 'library' (one shelf of books in a metal cabinet) and saw a book by Charles Sheldon entitled "In His Steps." I had nothing better to do, so I grabbed it, sat at my desk and read the first two chapters.
Praise God for even the boring days because I know He can use them for His glory! After reading the first two chapters, I was convicted to the point of being sick (today is not a remainder of that conviction. Today, I believe I have the flu). My stomach was heavy and felt caught in my throat. My mind was consumed by the accusation against Christianity made in the first two chapters of that book. All that I had known as comfortable and Christian living was called out as a fraud.
My outline on the Christian speech went in the trash and in a matter of ten minutes was replaced by one detailing a subject more threatening and deep than I had ever dared venture with these young women. Our Christian life was never ever meant to be easy. True disciples of Christ do not have comfortable lives.
To summarize. In this book, a homeless man wanders a town and finds no one to care for him. He finds himself on the steps of a minister who offers him the first and only words of comfort and encouragement he hears. The following Sunday, he wanders into the minister's church, and at the end of service confronts the congregation with their complacency. Is this really what following Jesus means? You go on your vacations to exotic summer homes while people outside your doors are starving and dying without hope. I ask you, is this what Jesus would do?
The man dies within the week but his words ring true in the heart of the pastor. He levels a challenge at his congregation to go through the year asking, "What would Jesus do?" and to do that, regardless the cost. This is true discipleship.
A group take 'the pledge' and the story goes on to tell how their choices affect their lives in drastic ways. Many lose their jobs. Many choose roads less traveled. Many are angered and forsake the pledge. For those that chose to follow in His steps, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.
It was a challenge to me. A call to true discipleship. Discipleship that forsakes the comforts of instant America and reaches out to the broken America. Discipleship that knows what it means to take up the cross and follow Christ. Discipleship that tastes the sufferings of Christ. The shame. The humility. The mockery. Discipleship that knows Him because it follows Him regardless of the cost, physically, financially, emotionally, socially. A discipleship that forsakes family and forgoes convenience in order to reach the lost and dying He came to save.
That is true discipleship.
Sunday morning church isn't true discipleship. That is only a part. We Americans like things easy. We want our relationship with Christ to be easy. Nevermind the fact that in one country in the Middle East in one prison alone, 3000 people are being held captive on no grounds except their Christian faith. They have sacrificed their lives. Here we sit in America, saving up money for our dream homes, driving ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt while down the street a family lies broken, but we wouldn't know because talking with them wouldn't be convenient. Heaven forbid we actually feel compassion for someone other than ourselves. Heaven forbid that God would bring to light our selfishness and greed. Heaven forbid we would feel led to actually help people.
I speak more to myself than anyone else. Ten miles down the road lies the hub of America. The side of DC tourists don't see are the crippled and lame that walk the city streets. The homeless, cold and lonely, who lie over the metro exhaust fans trying to find a little relief from the cold. The husbands and wives who lay beside the highway with nothing but a tent as shelter. The prostitute who gives herself away because it is the only job she can find. The filthy, the vile, the wretched, the blind, the deaf, the hungry...
Jesus communed with publicans and sinners. These are the people He came to save. He came for the broken, the weary, the wounded. We read the story of the good Samaritan and scoff at the religious leaders as they pass him by. How could you! How could you walk beside a man, so hurt, so broken, so in need of help!?! How could you just skirt around him? Ignore him? If I were there, I would help him. I would get down off my horse, get my hands bloody and take care of him. I would get him help. Take him to the nearest hospital and pay for the bill. I would see to it that he was taken care of.
Would you, really? Well, of course I would!
That is the question.