Lately the Lord has been teaching me a lesson about how I view people. This particular post is a result of a hard lesson that I learned over Christmas break, & it is something that God is continuing to teach me. As I share what is on my heart, I just want to remind you that I am by no means perfect (who needs reminding of that? Lol). Nor have I completely learned everything that God wants me to. But I just see such a need for this reminder, so bear with me as I try to put 4+ months of learning into a blog post....you might want to grab yourself a snack, & a drink! =)
This past year has been a real growing experience. Up until this last summer, I would say that I have been a lukewarm Christian at best. Much to my shame, it took a missions trip to South America & some extremely difficult trials in my life during the first part of 2009 for God to get my attention & finally dedicate my life to Him. I feel like I have wasted so much time & I still have so much to learn, but I'm thankful that the Lord is a patient Teacher. One of the biggest lessons I've had to learn is how my view of people is SO unlike God's view of people. Have you all ever heard the song "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath? That has been the prayer of my heart since God revealed my apathetic view of the people around me.
Over Christmas break I was excited that the Lord had opened up an opportunity to work in a local community of Muslims with a missionary family from my church. As I began watching the training dvd's, I was extremely convicted with the testimony of how one woman had come to work with the Muslim people. She & her young daughter had been in a doctor's office when a family of Somalians came into the waiting room. Her initial reaction was not one of love. "What are they doing here?" She whispered. Her daughter heard, & replied, "Jesus died for them too mommy!" The woman said that she felt numb as conviction swept over her. The Lord immediately revealed her sin. She said that one question continued to haunt her over the next several months. "Are you viewing these people as the enemy or the prize?" It is clear how Jesus views them, & what an incredible price He paid; He saw all people as such a precious prize that He gave His own life for them. Sadly, it is also clear how the majority of American Christian's view them; we fear, & we avoid because we do not have a Christ-like view of people. My initial purpose for tutoring Muslims was not out of Christ-like love. I wasn't going to do it because I felt love for them; I felt responsibility & duty, but not real love. No yet anyways. That question continues to haunt me every time I feel apprehensive about sharing the gospel. Am I viewing this person as the enemy or the prize? Am I so fearful that I will withhold the good news that is the only thing capable of saving someone from spending an eternity in hell?
Though I had learned a big lesson in love, & motives for ministry, God was not done teaching me yet.
In February, Northland held a conference for pastoral staff mainly, with over 300 pastors in attendance, & we as a student body also had the opportunity to attend many of the sessions. I went to 10+ sessions over the 3 day conference, & they were all very good, but there was one session that I just couldn't get out of my head. It was called "Redemptive Living." Oh how I needed to hear that session. I wish I could just let you all listen to it! But I'll do my best to accurately relate the gist of the session. The speaker asserted that it was impossible to live a redemptive life unless we first understand how Christ sees us. First of all, Christ, God incarnate, came into this world not to be served, but to serve. and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He sees us as lost, confused, wandering & harassed by the troubles of this world. Like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:35-38). That is why He came to save us. Aren't you thankful for your salvation? It doesn't stop there; we as Christians have the privilege of giving over our anxieties & casting our burdens on God, because He cares for us! (1 Peter 5:7) But there is a whole world of people that have never heard this good news. We get so caught up in our own lives that we forget there is a lost & dying world out there waiting for some sort of salvation. Look around you! Why do you think that so many girls feel worthless when they don't have a boyfriend? Why are there so many people sacrificing their families for the sake of money? Why is drug & alcohol abuse running rampant in high schools, colleges, & all across the nation? People are desperately trying to find fulfillment & fill a God-sized hole they have in their hearts. Will you forget about yourself for a moment & look into the eyes of the people that you get so easily annoyed with? It has often been said, "eyes are the window to the soul." Do you see the pain, confusion, & emptiness? Consider your own salvation & the security & love you have in Christ. All of the benefits that come from your relationship with God; where would you be without that?
I am so frustrated with American Christian's right now; myself included. We have gotten so caught up in our "American Dream" that is so filled with stuff we have forgotten what we were called to do on this earth. "And He said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" Have we really become so consumed with our material possessions that we are unwilling to help those around us, or in those another country that have nothing? Matthew 25:40 says "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" I realize that not everyone has the ability to give monetary gifts right now, but this doesn't just apply to material possessions. Often, it is a much greater gift when you give of yourself. Your time, your talents, your love. We've all been hurt, & I know that all of us can confirm how much harder it can be to give love, or forgiveness when the person receiving it has done nothing to earn it than it is to give something material. As you read through 1 Corinthians 13, it becomes apparent how much true love costs. If we give everything we have, but have not love, it is worthless. Love is patient, kind, it does not envy or boast...the list goes on. I know there are hard days where you just feel incapable of truly loving someone, but we have to look beyond ourselves.Hebrews 12:3 says, "Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." Christ endured much more than we will ever have to for the sake of people. One instance that I can think of that is always convicting is found in Matthew 14. Jesus' close friend, John the Baptist, had just been brutally murdered & Jesus went to be alone for a while. Wouldn't you? But a crowd followed Him, & even thought He was hurting & mourning for a friend, He still looked on the crowd with compassion & healed their sick. If Christ can attend to the needs of others when He is hurting so deeply, can't we take a few minutes out of our day to show kindness to those around us?
I know, at this point, you're probably thinking two things:
#1. What, is she writing a book here? (I'm almost done, promise! Lol. =)
#2. I could never do that! I get annoyed with people even when I haven't had anything tragic happen!!
I'm with you there. None of us can live this way on our own. We have to die to ourselves! Deny yourself & take up your cross daily. This isn't a one time decision; you will struggle every day. But God is faithful & He will give you strength to stop thinking about yourself so much & start looking at the needs of others. I heard a quote that definitely fits in here. "God doesn't want to change your life, He wants to replace it!" There will be times where you will have to ask Christ to love a person through you, because it is impossible to do it on your own.
Similarly, it is impossible to truly love people so much that you get over your fear of witnessing unless you look fully at Christ & how much He has sacrificed for YOU. God saw you as such a valuable prize that He gave His only begotten Son so that you would know true love. As Romans 8:32 says "He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" He will give you the ability to live a redemptive life, you just need to ask. Don't hold onto your salvation like a "get out of jail free" card while you let those who are lost & destined to spend an eternity apart from God pass by. Don't leave great commission living up to missionaries. Look around, the mission field has come to you!
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:13-16