What you see is what you get, a helpful axiom that has aided my ability to judge most situations in life as helpful or unhelpful. But then, someone comes along and tells you to not judge a book by it’s cover. Now you are forced to save face, give in, and examine an otherwise undesirable situation further. In most cases, things really are exactly how they seem. But if you dig deeper, you can find a few excuses to tolerate otherwise unfavorable events or relationships with people.
Love. What do you feel or experience when you hear that word? Depending on your culture or upbringing, it has various connotations. I for instance, imagine a bunch of hippies wearing tye-die t-shirts, ripped blue-jeans, and smoking reefer. Some may envision the intimacy between a man and a woman in marriage. You can even describe love as being the emotion that causes the emptiness and feeling of loss when your favorite pet dies. Regardless of the schema love has in your mind, it is a powerful emotion.
Love ultimately facilitates the cohesion of living beings to other living beings. Therefore, the absence of love paints a picture many of us can see when we turn on the evening news. Wars, violence unto others, and the governments of the kingdoms of this world that consistently posture themselves for personal gain are fair representations of lovelessness.
Jesus defined love quite profoundly. Examining his entire ministry provides many other anecdotes that make good sermons on love. But that just over complicates my point. The message he gives seems much simpler.
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Call me a materialist or maybe a skeptic. But, if the proof is not in the pudding, why believe it? I have known gang-bangers, bikers, whores, drug-dealers, and many addicts who exemplify this “love” of laying down ones life for his friends. This willingness seems to be more prevalent in those who have less to live for in the here and now than it is among those who are faring much better.
But I am curious, how many friends do you have in today’s “church” that would give their lives for you? What about their friends? Are they faring better than the undesirables among us?
Do not give in to the temptation to disqualify human sacrifice based on the lives people live. It is an easy temptation to succumb to, but the illustration holds true. It is not their cultural preferences, lifestyle selections, or associations that give merit to their choice to give their lives for another. It is their decision to reject the love of natural life for the sake of continuing another’s.
If we think about The Good Samaritan, we usually identify with the story by aspiring to be more like him. But the parable really shows us how unlike him we really are. We as people, especially the church, tend toward the Levite or the Priest. Generally more concerned about the value of our life an unwilling to risk the sacrifice for the aid of another. The Levite and the Priest likely live much better than the Samaritan as well. But who knows, I may be contextualizing too much but the point is still valid.
Jesus cared not for the ongoing pleasures of the world, but desired to give life to a fuller extent to those he sacrificed his own for.
Eternal life is a greater reward than mortal life, but who among us is capable of making that exchange. The issue isn’t really the reward for the benefactor. The issue is the selflessness of the sacrifice. How can you care much about a church that generally prioritizes its own needs (pastoral salaries, building costs, and various other sundry) over the legitimate needs (food, clothing, and financial supports) of its members? If the church physically demonstrates characteristics more common of the Priest or the Levite, then it is easy to reflect that same apathy toward its well being.
More and more I find myself less intrigued by the “do-goodings” of a seldom good doing church in America and more impressed with the selflessness of those who do not identify as “Christians” or “Church-Folks.” What does that mean? For me, it means that the church at large is inoculating its own people against the very blueprint of God that is inherent to all mankind. Don’t get me wrong, depravity is truly suppressed by God’s grace in all of us, but it is far worse to be inoculated against the plight of all humanity because you’ve cornered yourself away into the Holy Huddle.
Samaritans were often considered “Pagan” or “Unworthy” to the pious Jews of Jesus’ day. The mere reference to the Samaritan as hero to a Jewish audience that despised Samaritans culturally and religiously, is all the evidence we need to see that religion really equates to a pack of baloney on any given Sunday. A true demonstration of the love of Christ is the evidence I want to see in the lives of those who profess him. Until that becomes evident in the lives of those who claim his name, I really do not have much left in the way of compassion or patience for the “professing church” of our day. And now that I think about it, of the 100’s of Christians I know, I can hardly count on two hands how many may really give their lives for someone else.
Show me the pudding.