Updated: Sep 9, 2020
In my last post, I explored the idea of entering uncomfortable places on purpose for the sake of God's Kingdom and glory. This work of suffering with those who suffer is what brings us closest to the heart of the Father. In true, Jesus-like fashion, God nudges us in the direction of denying ourselves, of giving everything up, of being a little less comfortable. And in the midst of being uncomfortable, we experience the comfort of all comforts - the comfort from the Savior who sacrificed his very life so that we could live. He accompanies us in our suffering because he suffered for us first.
Maybe you're reading this, thinking, "Yeah, I'm pretty comfortable. My life isn't necessarily easy, but I'm definitely not suffering on purpose." It can be pretty easy to stay right where you are when it's comfortable. Just think about the guy who came up to Jesus and asked what he needed to receive eternal life:
Guy: "Hey Jesus, what good deed must I do to enter into eternal life?
Jesus: "Well, first of all, you're asking the wrong question. There is only One who is good. But if you really want to know, you must obey my commandments to enter into the Kingdom of God."
Guy: "Well could you be a little more specific? Which ones?"
Jesus: "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor."
Guy: "Yeah, I have done all of those. Check. Anything else I can mark off?"
Jesus: "Oh yeah, sell all your possessions and give all your money to the poor. Then, you will have treasure in heaven."
Guy, in his head: Well, I have quite a few possessions that I don't want to give up. I guess I'm staying right here, where it's comfortable. It's better to have the possessions that I have now than eternal treasure with the living God.
I mean, I get it. I wouldn't really want to sell all my possessions either. Sounds pretty hard. Jesus knew that those possessions were getting in the way of Guy and God. Would he stay put, satisfied with the six commandments he was extra-proud of keeping? Or would he be willing to enter into the unmarked territory of suffering for the sake of another?
Sadly, his possessions meant too much to him, and he chose to stay comfortable. This is the story of so many American Christians, living in more-than-comfortable situations, in our houses with extra rooms and enough square footage to house at least 3 children in the foster care system. (Did you know that each child only requires 40 square feet of your house? Yes - FORTY SQUARE FEET.) The sad part about it is we are comfortable -- too comfortable -- and we don't even know it. Because of our lack of proximity to the broken, hurting, marginalized, and suffering, we don't even realize how much we have. And we're missing out on some pretty beautiful things.
Many pastors and teachers in my life have explained this story in terms of what Guy was willing to give up. They'd say, "Well, Jesus wasn't necessarily expecting him to actually give away all of his possessions and give all of his money to the poor. Then, how would he live? He was testing him to see how much he was willing to give up."
But I don't think that Jesus was hypothetically asking Guy to give up all of his possessions. I think he was literally telling him to. He knew what it would take for Guy to get close to the Father. He would need to enter into the uncomfortable place of financial insecurity, of getting close to the poor by becoming one of them. He would have to truly die to his own desires and wants in order to get close to the One who was going actually die for him.
Doesn't this just get you all ready and willing to give up everything for Jesus? Doesn't it make you excited to be on mission with the God who doesn't just ask us to lay down our lives for us, but who actually did it first?
Getting close to the broken, the marginalized, the outcast, and the least of these looks different for each of us, but it always requires sacrifice. You have to make a move towards sacrificing something - or everything.
Maybe you're not quite ready to sacrifice everything, but you're ready to start moving in the direction of uncomfortable living on purpose. Just take one small step. Maybe you need to start by building a relationship with someone who is different from you. Perhaps you need to give away more of your monthly budget to those who are in need. Think about something that would hurt a little bit to give up and then give it up for the sake of someone else. But don't stop at the sacrifice. Figure out a way to get close to someone who is hurting, broken, or on the outskirts. Make a meal for a lonely neighbor. Invite someone to coffee who you normally wouldn't. Bring a homeless person a cup of coffee and start a conversation -- or better yet, invite them to dinner in your home! You don't have to be a foster parent to cultivate a spirit of fostering. You can have the attitude and the welcoming spirit of a foster parent in small, meaningful ways.
You don't have to be a foster parent to cultivate a spirit of fostering.
You can foster love, foster hope, foster truth with the very people in your neighborhood, the people closest to you. Maybe a relationship you build with a vulnerable family will prevent a child from entering the foster care system to begin with. And that is the greatest of victories! Taking small steps towards the broken is taking small steps toward our own healing, our own restoration. Through service and compassion to the poor, the needy, and the outcast, we experience more fully the presence and love of our everlasting, compassionate God. And we get to meet some pretty beautiful people along the way.
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