Friday, March 8, 2013

Following Jesus and Putting Away the Blasters

It's confession time.  I don't know Jesus as well as I should.  I suppose most people on earth can say that, but it was brought home to me while we've been preparing these posts about following our Savior. I have deep sympathy for the obtuse apostles, who never really understood Jesus's message until he was gone, because sometimes I'm the same way.  I've read the gospels countless times, and sometimes I just don't get it.  

I was all prepared to write a post about how we follow Jesus in who we hang out with.  Oh, I was really going to set some ears to burning.  I had a blaster in each hand, ready to tell everyone that Jesus spent most of his time with two groups, his apostles and the "undesirables" the sinners, the tax collectors, the loose women.  My point was going to be that we should do the same.  Hang out with Christians, but not limit ourselves to "church people."  

Thankfully, I decided to read the Bible first.  I found that I can't put Jesus's actions in a nice package like that.  While it's true that Jesus spent a lot of time with his inner circle and with "sinners," he also spent time with lots of other kinds of people too.  The Pharisee who wanted so badly to know when Jesus would initiate his kingdom that he visited Jesus as night (John 3).  The Pharisee who was only looking for a chance to trap him (Mark 12).  A couple of sisters and their brother (Luke 10; John 11).  The tax collector who was desperately seeking him (Luke 19). A Samaritan woman who was only drawing water from the well (John 4).  Rulers. Soldiers. Lepers. Children.  Even the spies sent to catch him in a trap admitted that Jesus showed no partiality (Luke 20:21). 

What I noticed instead of a pattern of people that I anticipated was a pattern of behavior.  Jesus had an eye for compassion.  Several of his healings were stricken people he just happened to be passing.  As I read those passages, I stopped to think about my own eyes.  I don't walk everywhere like Jesus did, but I pass people every day in the grocery store, in the car rider line at my daughter's school, at the gas station. Do I have an eye for compassion?  I'm afraid not.  Usually, I have my eye on getting my job done as quickly as possible.  If you asked me to describe the people I pass every day, I couldn't do it.  If I want to follow Jesus, I need to notice people more, all kind of people. I need to take compassion on them.

Besides the sick he passed by, Jesus also had compassion for the lost.  He made himself easy to find for those who were seeking him.  Zacchaeus wanted to see him so badly that he climbed a tree just to get a glimpse.  Jesus gave him more than a glimpse and came to his house.  Nicodemus wanted to know about the kingdom of God, and Jesus told him about it. Our Savior was imminently approachable.  In our world today, there are millions of people who are seeking answers to the important questions in life.  Do the ones I encounter day after day know they can approach me for answers?  Do I have enough compassion on the lost to make Jesus easy to find in my life and in my words?  Based on the number of times I've been asked about Jesus, I'd have to say no.  When Jesus had compassion on a crowd of directionless people, he told his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2) As I go throughout my days, I want to be one of those laborers.  

The disciples that Jesus led were also his closest friends on earth.  He was so close to them that he considered them his family.  "And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, He said, 'Behold my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother'" (Matthew 12: 49-50).  I may not have really understood everything about Jesus, but I was right about one thing.  He did spend a lot of time with people who followed Jehovah.  When he was sad, he wanted them close.  When he knew his time on earth was almost over, he took them aside and washed their feet, prayed for them, and shared a last meal with them.  He treated them like family.  When I consider the relationship I have with my mother and sisters, I think about the amount of time I spend talking with them, the time I take out of my schedule to go visit them, the genuine care I have for what goes on in their day to day lives.  Do I use the same energy on the family of God?  Granted, my mom and sisters are Christians, but there are lots of people in the family of God.  Do I show the same care for them?  Some.  It's not too hard to care about the young moms I spend recreational time with.  What about the others? I have to confess that often I don't even know their struggles.  If I want to follow Jesus, I need to be praying for them, serving them, and spending enough time with them to know their needs.

Following Jesus in who I spend time involves a lot more than having a close circle of Christian friends and hanging out with sinners.  It takes training my eyes to see the hurting people around me every day.  It takes having a compassion for the lost strong enough to be approachable to them.  It takes serving and praying for my fellow Christians on our journey.  Today I'm going to put my blasters away and just try to be like Jesus. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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