I wish I was a better writer, that I could use words to convey the fact that Christianity is about making the tough choices. Christ centered songs of worship and testimony help to remind us who Jesus is and who we are in relationship to him but some of us limit our experience to these songs. Some of us are able to convey our inner thoughts with wonderful words but we limit our experience with God to these words. Some of us are great at organizing things, perhaps for the church or a ministry, but this is what we limit ourselves to and are really nothing more than dry bones. We talk about it, write about it, think about it but we really don't live it. We don't live as a people completely consumed by Jesus. We don't live a life brimming with passion for the King of kings, because if we did we would be making the hard choices and the world would be a different place.
Men like Hudson Taylor could not stand the thought of so many people dying without Jesus. He did everything he could to prepare himself and then off to China he went, to spend his life reaching a nation that was lost without Jesus. It came at a high cost but he had to do it because of the love and passion that Jesus' love provoked in him. He just could not live knowing that so many people were dying every day without knowing Jesus.
Men like George Muller had that same passion but it was worked out closer to home and was focused on the lost and destitute of society. He could not stand the thought of orphaned children being raised in mental institutions because they had nowhere else to go, so he started his orphanages, trusting Jesus all the way. Jesus' love compelled him to take action.
These are the simple people, the common people of their day, the people of faith, hope and love that I hold up against this current age and shake my head. Don't worry, I shake my head at my life as well. We have the appearance of godliness but we don't understand the power of it, the power to provoke change in people's lives and situations in our society. We are suppose to be the catalysts for change but instead we allow ourselves to be changed and influenced by society, by our culture. We become numb to violence and suffering, we walk by those who are in trouble, we don't get involved with those who are hurting. We limit ourselves to praying (if we do that much) but we don't let anything disrupt our lives. We get by with as little ripple in this world as possible, satisfied with ourselves and only ourselves.
In his letter to Timothy the apostle Paul wrote something that stands out from the rest yet seems so simple we miss it:
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. (1 Timothy 5:4)
I like the phrasing. We can make it speak directly to us, "put your religion into practice". In this context Paul was telling families to look after their widowed mothers, as was their responsibility but we can put it into the larger context of our Christian walk. You may say "It's not a religion, it's a relationship" as is the catch phrase these days, but if you understand this then you have even less excuse for living your life without passion for the lost and suffering of this world. What good is this "relationship" if it doesn't compel you to love others, a love that provokes you into action?
This love is a love of tough choices. Taylor left everything behind and sacrificed his reputation because of this love. Elliot set aside his future and dedicated his life to the least valued members of society because of this love. We don't have to go half-way around the world to work it out. Tough choices include loving those who hate you and persecute you. It means setting aside your personal prejudices and loving with Jesus' radical love. It is practical, awesome and requires action.
If you are loving God then you are only living half the truth because God's love also compels us to love our neighbour. John told us that if we don't love our brother then we don't even know God let alone love him. The love of Christ is a radical love, never seen or experienced before, when understood from God's perspective. That love, when experienced, provokes that same kind of love from us, radical and unstoppable. Faith is not even a question when it resides in a heart overwhelmed by this love; compassion, grace, and mercy spring up without thought. How is this radical love working itself out in your life? How is it impacting the world that you know?
The Church is stuck in a place of mediocrity because those of us who make up the Church are bathing in it. We allow movies and celebrities to influence what Jesus' love should be influencing. We are satisfied with a good life, as long as our family and friends are happy. We mourn the lose of a singer who dies wrapped in her own personal pain, and we cry over the victims of a madman in a faraway country but when we can actually do something to help we simply ignore 11 million people starving to death. We walk past the homeless on the street. We politely ignore the neighbours as they yell at each other. We avoid the group of youth on the street because of all the television we watch. How is the world a changed place because Jesus saved me?
You know, words are not enough; love requires action. If we truly belong to Jesus Christ then conviction comes in by the Spirit and the Word. Let's end with this then with the undeniable truth of God:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:16-20)