Recently, my wife and I embarked on a plan to reach out to people who are different from us—spiritually, ethnically, and otherwise. Why take on this challenge? We’ve experienced the grace and blessing of God, and we want to bless Him by loving others who are also made in His image. It’s interesting, however, that even as we’ve strived to bless Him, we’ve been greatly blessed by God through these new relationships!
In January 2015, a terrorist stormed Hyper Cacher (a Kosher supermarket) in Paris and murdered four hostages. One of the store’s clerks, Lassana Bathily, heard the gunfire and hid shoppers in a freezer. Bathily, a Muslim whose courageous actions saved several Jews (including a child), was an immigrant who had been seeking French citizenship. As a thank-you for his bravery, authorities fast-tracked his papers and handed him a French passport during a public ceremony.
As a second-grader at a mission school in Ghana, I didn’t fare too well. Our two teachers gallantly juggled lesson plans for students spanning seven grades. This academic effort took place in a two-room cinderblock structure with an aluminum roof that began to broil us by noon each day. Distractions waged war on my 7-year-old attention span, and they were winning—handily.
Greg Boyle helped launch Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Geared specifically to help former gang members, it’s one of the biggest and most successful ministries in the United States. Boyle knows a lot about loving and caring for others. In his book Tattoos on the Heart, he writes: “Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself.”
Oswald Chambers once said, “It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide.” So after we receive Jesus as our Savior, what is it that God requires of us? What should we be doing?
There’s something within the human condition that seems to enjoy seeing others fail, especially if those who fail were previously successful. For instance, we might celebrate seeing a top sports team fall from their lofty perch after a long period of success. About time too, and other phrases come to mind.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” That quote from author Francis Chan points out the false view we can possess as we consider what success is all about. Is it found in what we own, what we’ve accomplished, or in our status? Is that really how we know that we’re winning in life? What if we’re playing the wrong game?
How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?
I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”
By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Some poll results from a few years back reveal the big goals on the minds of Generation Y. The Pew Research Center asked 18- to 25-year-olds what they felt was their generation’s most important goals in life. Eighty-one percent said that getting rich was the most important or second-most important life goal for the group. And 51 percent lifted up becoming famous as the most important thing to achieve for a Millennial.
Those quirky Internet tests can be fun to take. Answer a few questions, and you learn which superhero or character from a popular movie you best resemble, or which country best fits your personality. People take these tests and then post on social media: “I got Batman!” “I’m Napoleon!” “I should live in Shangri-La!”
In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright points out the imbalance of spending 40 days observing Lent while spending one day celebrating Easter. He suggests, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.”
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”