Thursday, September 6, 2012

it's the little things.


I had a meeting last night with some folks at church who do the work that is usually thankless, goes unnoticed, can (I’m sure) feel monotonous, at times.  They’re just doing their part to make the world a better place, and they’re doing it with humility.  These people don’t ask for fanfare or recognition, but I try to pump them up once in awhile.  And maybe that’s because I, too, need to remind myself that the task of caring for people is ongoing, and while it is rewarding much of the time, there’s never a “job well done” kind of feeling.  Frankly, I think this is the reason so many people get burned out at church- we’re not good at thinking about the small things we do as having any kind of significance in the world, and that is entirely not true.

So, I read them these words from 1 John 3:
“This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.  My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

Often times, I think, we get caught up with the word about Jesus “laying his life down for us” or “sacrificed his very life for us”.  And, while I think it’s important to reflect on the magnitude of what God has done there, it’s difficult for us to relate to.  Does God want us to give our lives too?  Is that what that means?  Or, maybe God doesn’t want us to die, but do we have to spend every waking hour trying to be better, do more, etc.?  The answer, clearly, is no.  But, what does God expect when he says that we should live sacrificially? 

Loving one anther, or laying down our lives for one another should 1) not be intimidating, and 2) we shouldn’t think too hard about it.  The love that we know about from Jesus doesn’t have to stay rooted in the past as some unattainable ideal.  We know what Jesus has done, and his act propels us do what we can- to love, and give the world hope that God is still among us.  In other words, if you have any inkling that your life has somehow been transformed by the love of Christ, then you have new life- life abundant.  And you can lay down that life for anyone or everyone you meet- whether it’s through a note or a phone call, a smile to someone on the street, or lending a helping hand when it’s needed.

I loved this quote from a professor I’ve read before.  He says, “To give one's life in this way, in imitation of Jesus' own love, is more than simply a result of believing; it is the concrete shape that belief takes in the world, and the presence of such giving is a sign that God's love is present and active.  If we don’t continue to act, even in the smallest ways, the love of God in Christ is not made known to the world.”

So, friends, keep doing what you’re doing.  Actions speak louder than words (not always true- heck, you’re reading words, now!).  Acting like Jesus, or “laying down your life” isn’t so bad.  Yes, sacrifice implies giving something up, or losing a little bit of yourself for the sake of another, but it can be on a small scale most of the time.  It's these little acts that add up, these tiny ways in which we lay down our life that make all the difference.  In fact, with God’s help, it’s transforming the world, bit by bit.

“My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”

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