Two books stand next to each other on my nightstand. One touts the importance of big dreams that invite the blessings of God, emphasizing earthly success as a measure for a good life. The other tells stories of brokenness inviting us to find the abundance of life by standing with the bruised, the sad, the ‘less than perfect’ people, sharing the fellowship of Christ’s Cross with them. They present two different views of the Christian life with the first having a definite natural appeal in its promise of ‘more’ and ‘bigger.’ The second one inspired me, causing deep reflection, drawing me close to Jesus, but often leaving me disturbed.
There is not a second’s doubt in my mind that the true way of Christ is not found in more of my Self, no matter how noble the aspirations I claim in His Name. He is found among those who ‘hunger and thirst’ for God’s grace because they know they are hopelessly sin-broken apart from His healing touch!
How easy it is to idealize a life given to sharing human sorrow, standing with people who are suffering, being willing to face up to our own broken and sinful places. But, in reality, authenticity and compassion is a painful, costly, bloody business. We need look no further than the life of Savior to understand this. His love did not move Him to send an offering or to write a blog about the need for change. He entered fully into His own Creation, ultimately becoming sin for us, dying in ignominy to save us. His story is far removed from the re-interpreted “Christianity” that attempts to sanctify the American dream of self-fulfillment by making the Spirit’s power a tool to build our kingdoms.
God invites us to take up our cross and there, in death, to find a new abundance- defined by intimacy with Him, by the grace we find in Him alone. It is a narrow Way, by Christ Jesus’ own word, and few find it. The appeal of being accepted as one of the beautiful and whole, of enjoying influence and esteem, is a glittering lure that drags us from the blood-stained ground at the foot of the Cross. Our instinct of self-preservation makes us ask, “Why would I stand with the homeless, the lonely, the rejected, the poor and powerless, the dysfunctional?” Just a step further, we distance ourselves by making the plight of the broken their fault for if we can blame them, we can judge them, and we can leave them to sleep in the bed which they have made for themselves.
But, alas, the witness of Scripture stands against us for the Word leaves no exception where it says, ”all have sinned and fallen short.” Some of us may be a little better at concealing our broken, but we are all desperately in need of the Cross. True life is found there, abundance of grace, peace with God a free gift, not a merit badge for high acheivers.
At the end of time, when all is revealed, when the Great Reversal; the last first, the first last – is made plain, I want to be standing where I will hear the commendation of the only One whose judgment matters. In a word from the Word Jesus shows what God will commend. May He clear our vision and lead us to live whole and holy lives near the Cross. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:31-40, NIV)
Be Thou My Vision
Be Thou my vision
O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought
By day or by night
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light
High King of heaven
When vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys
O bright heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart
Still be my vision
O Ruler of all
Eleanor Henrietta Hull | Mary Elizabeth Byrne © Words: Public Domain