Thursday, 13 November 2014

Being different

Looking at the life of Jesus, I can’t but help to see that he was making a difference in the world by being different. Now that “insight” may not come as a surprise but it is surprisingly different than many of our expression of discipleship. In fact, in almost every way Jesus lived and spoke about the nature of discipleship seems to be precisely the opposite of what our culture and therefore we exalt. To be successful, we are told, we must seek after power, wealth, security, recognition, status. But what we find when we look at Jesus, a man who explains success in term of giving, rather than taking; self-sacrifice rather than sacrifice; going to the back rather than pushing forward; faithfulness rather than popularity. Jesus was making the profound point that daily living means daily dying -- dying to our self-fascination and that of the world but living for something eternal, living for someone else. If you want to live, you must die. If you want to find your life, you must lose it. Jesus lived for what is timeless and so he calls his people to live what is timeless and not just current, to take up the cross and follow him, even as it means to go against social and religious norms.  

“Christians make a difference in this world by being different, they don’t make a difference by being the same.”
Tullian Tchividjian

I don’t want to go to much back in time, but my first encounter with  a Christian, I may have been 8 years old, introduced me not only to a radically different man, but through him and the group of people that surrounded him, I encountered a radically different God than I thought there was. . . , I encountered unconditional and unlimited love. And I am speaking of unlimited in the sense of not being time scheduled . . . this love was expressed outside of the time slots of youth group events or alike. Curt Havemann, he passed away many years ago, was that man with a great heart. Although he and his wife had no children on their own, they loved the children of the youth group like their own. They stayed with us in touch as long as possible, well after Curt's retirement and moving away. He and his wife very intentionally had planned their lives around other peoples need, had planned their lives around the gospel. Their home was always open and I remember that they offered us when we came to their home roosted bread with jam as a treat. They never made much money, never had a car on their own, but always time to listen and at the end of a visit a short word of God and prayer.
I am thankful to God for this man and his wife in my life, though I was not their son, I don’t think they would have treated their flesh and blood any different. They showed me what unconditionally and unlimited means. 

Yes, I am different but I am not going to be a copy to fit in.
Although totally different circumstances; Jesus also lived with others peoples need in mind first. Not only did he die for the need of the world, but he also lived for the need of the world. The perhaps most striking example for me is His encounter with the woman at the well. I think we all know the story. He and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and took a break at one of their villages. After all, it must have been hot as it was the hottest time of the day. Jesus stays behind and twelve men go grocery shopping. And while he is on his own a woman, again, in the middle of the day is going to the well to fetch water. And Jesus is there, starting a conversation that leads to salvation. Every time, I look at the story, I am puzzled. Jesus, very intentionally travels through Samaritan, something a good Jew would simply not do. Jesus, very intentionally travels through the heat of the day, something someone normally would not do either. Jesus, very intentionally tells his disciples to go into the village to stay behind alone. I have not heard anywhere but here that it takes a dozen or so men to go grocery shopping. And then Jesus, very intentionally speaks to a woman, a Samaritan woman of ill repute to be precise, something we avoid because we fear the backlashes of people. Jesus, very intentionally was different on many levels, and because he was different he made a difference in the life of this woman and to me as I am reading the story again. In fact, he did get out of the "conventional way of life," to meet the covets, the swindlers, and idolaters. As a teacher of the law, he was seeking those who the religious people and society at large avoided.

What I am left with at the end of my morning readings, reflections, and prayer is the simple question; "Am I intentionally enough in how I live to make a difference in someone else's life unconditionally?  After all, have we Christians not been entrusted with an eternal truth, eternal values and an eternal love intended to be light in a weary culture and to shine light toward a world beyond their own? To talk of a simple ma, a simple Jew, one of thousands who died on the cross but who made a difference because he was different.

And that is where our difference starts.

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