“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1
I hear quite a few people speak about their church as if they are merely consumers, making a choice about what is best for them. They belong to a church for reasons like these:
- I love the Pastor
- It has a great youth program for my kids
- The music is fantastic
- My friends go there
I’ve also heard people reject a church because:
- I don’t feel uplifted
- I’m not being fed spiritually
- I don’t like someone who is a member
- I prefer a different kind of music
Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with loving your Pastor, the music, the programs or the people in your church. There is something wrong with making a choice that’s all about you. I personally believe that the lay people of the congregation are called to be there every bit as much as the Pastor. We’re part of the body of Christ. We all have gifts and talents to build up the body. We’re all needed. We are to be worthy of that calling.
That means our choice of a congregation should be based, in great part, on where God is calling us to serve. It means once we have accepted our call, we need to be humble and bear with others even when we don’t agree with them. It means we don’t change congregations just because we liked the old Pastor better; we don’t get mad and leave in a snit. We settle in, we become family and we work together.
“Look careful then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 4:15-17
You’ve been called. Are you blooming where you are planted? Are you walking in a worthy manner? Are you God’s servant in the place He has placed you? Or are you just a religious consumer?
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15
If you go on a Via de Cristo (or other type of Cursillo) retreat, you will find a group of people who are there just to serve you for the weekend. They bring you drinks, supply any need you many have (tissues, snacks, aspirin, etc.), run errands for you, and so on. In Via De Cristo we call them the chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in action. Everybody loves their cha, and often say they wish they could take their cha home with them!
Well, guess what? You don’t have to be on a retreat weekend to be a cha. Of course, it’s true, we all have many responsibilities and we cannot dedicate all of our time to fetching and carrying. We can, however, be Christ’s hand and feet and voice in the world every day to the people with whom we interact. We can help a neighbor carry her groceries, we can give up our place in line to a harried parent, we can say “have a blessed day” to the cashier who rings up our order, we can serve dinner to our family with words that are kind instead of complaining. Jesus gave us an example when he washed the feet of his disciples — he didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t his “job.” He did it to show us that good stewardship means using our time, our bodies and our minds to serve others.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all became chas?
This song has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It reminds me of a quote from one of Martin Luther’s earlier books, The Freedom of a Christian (1520). In it, he wrote,
“[A]s our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another “
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31
A few days ago, I went to my Aunt’s funeral. When I was thinking about her before the service, the word that came into my mind to describe her was “kind.” Surprisingly, the Pastor who spoke about her used the same word. He had known her since her younger child was born. He said he could not remember her ever saying a harsh word about somebody else. If she was sometimes irritated or angry, she had learned to keep those feelings to herself. She enjoyed children and taught Sunday School for thirty-five years. He also said that she enjoyed cooking and baking. She would often visit the elderly, ill or shut in members of her congregation to take them a meal or a treat. In fact, he told us that when he entered a home to visit, he was often greeted with the words, “Lois Stover has already been here …would you like one of her brownies?” I bet most ministers would love to have a member like that!
Aunt Lois had some gifts–teaching and serving. She invested them in loving others, not only her family but those often ignored or forgotten. The room was filled with people who remembered her caring and kindness. I’ve heard that many will forget what you say, but they will never forget what you do for them. It seemed true in Aunt Lois’s case.
What words will be spoken at your funeral? Will the Pastor say you used your gifts wisely to help others? Or will he struggle to find something worthwhile to commend? Will others remember you as a person they admired and cared for? Or will they be there only out of duty? Will you hear God’s words, “well done, good and faithful servant?” or will He say, “I never knew you.”
Use your talents like the wise servant. Spend them on others.
I’ve been thinking about this month’s theme. How the church is not a building, it isn’t a structure of brick, stone or wood. The church is made up of people doing God’s will in this world.
Of course, everyone knows about missionaries that serve overseas and put their lives on the line to preach the Gospel. What about us? We know about preachers that are called to different churches to shepherd God’s flock. What about us? We know about people who go out of their way to have a ministry to others, food banks, clothing banks, soup kitchens, youth ministries, pregnancy ministries and I’ll even throw in the policemen and women, firefighters, EMS personnel. What about us?
What about us everyday, wake up, go to work, come home people. We go through life, work at a job that, maybe, serves people but not like those who put their lives on the line every single day. We don’t always feel like we are the “Hands and Feet of Jesus” in our world.
I have to say that we really are. You never know what kind of impact you make on the people around you until it becomes clear to you one day. One day when I was home on a vacation day I got a call from a co-worker. Their husband had just died that morning. She was very upset, as she was the one who found him. I was very sympathetic during that call and all of a sudden she asked me to pray for her. Now I could have said that I’d keep her in my prayers, but I prayed for her right there on the phone. My point of telling you is this: I was never one to “preach” at work but she knew I was a Christian. She came to me for comfort and I was able to help her with comfort from the Lord. I felt blessed that day. The Lord was tapping me on the shoulder and said “See, you do make a difference.”
We are the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we go. We need to always keep this in mind. I love this song by Matthew West and now I just saw the video. In each of our own “little worlds” there is something we can do, someone we can help. Check out the song: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=912BMCNU
This week I took some books out of the library on forgiveness, so that I can immerse myself in our theme for the month. The first one I picked up is Unoffendable by Brant Hansen, who is a Christian radio host. His basic premise is that Christians should strive to become “unoffendable.” In other words, we should have a mindset that allows us to forgive others in advance.
Here’s a quote:
“Whenever there’s an injury to a relationship, a hurt, a broken heart, or even a broken thing, and you are willing to forgive, you are saying ‘I got this. I’m going to pick up the bill for this.’
This is, of course, precisely what God has done for us.
Hansen is absolutely right: we hear it every week in church when the pastor announces the forgiveness of our sins. It’s not a reward for our confession, it’s a statement of what has already taken place.
When we give up our anger, Hansen says, we are making a sacrifice which allows us to love others in unexpected ways. (Isn’t it amazing how our monthly themes are all fitting together?) He also maintains that when we choose ahead of time, “before conversations, before meetings, before our day begins–to be unoffendable, we’re simply choosing humility.” When we give up our anger, when we put other first, when we admit that we don’t understand their feelings and motivations, we have come to the place where we can minister to and serve them. Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about?
So what do you think? Can you spend some time each morning praying to be unoffendable all day?