Friday, September 06, 2013

For Phil Cooke

Today, I saw a Tweet by Phil Cooke that, in reference to his Huffington Post article, asked "What should Christians do to change their perception in the culture?"

I replied "Uh...be Christ-like???  Is this a trick question???

Phil replied “Being Christ-like” is too vague. What does that mean? Give me 5 specific expressions of that which would change people’s minds. 

Good response, Phil.  And it WAS a trick question.  You "tricked" me in to having to explain my flippant, but accurate answer.

Like Phil, I don't like vague.  But to give 5 examples in the 140 character limitations of Twitter is impossible even for the most succinct, which I am not.  And since I haven't posted anything here in a while, I decided to kill two birds with one post.  So, Phil, here goes:

(NOTE:  these are not in any specific order - by importance, or chronology, or anything other than the random, stream of consciousness that is me.  Additionally, Christ-likeness is not limited to five examples.  These just happen to be the five that were floating at the top of my psyche at this time)

1.  Jesus healed people.  So did some of the disciples (well, God did the healing through them, but He used them for this purpose).  I do not see me ever healing anyone in the near or distant future, but I can and have prayed to He who does the healing.  I have prayed for people and with people - believers and non-believers alike.  It's the praying with people that really demonstrates one's care and compassion for the other.  It's an open display of one's faith.  In addition, when God answers the prayer, the recipient will remember that moment and (hopefully) recognize the answer was anything but coincidence.

When Jesus healed Lazarus, He prayed aloud to those within earshot  "Father I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me."  (John 11:41-42)  He made a public display so people could view the entire process from prayer to answer/miracle.

Like Christ, I need to pray with people more.

2.  Jesus died for sinners so they might become saints.  John 15:13 says "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."  I've never taken a bullet for someone, though I like to think that if the situation presented itself I would.  However, I can give my time, my money, my home, my goods - and not just the extras sitting around.  Taking a bullet would hurt.  A lot.  Sometimes we need to give 'til it hurts.  Sometime we need to put aside that quiet night home vegging on the couch after a rough day at work and seek out our hurting neighbors.  I say "sometimes", acknowledging the need for boundaries in some relationships and we need to wisely discern when to stay home and when to go.  But too often we (more accurately, I) err on the side of self-preservation and put off the sacrifice until a more convenient time.

3.  Jesus confronted sin.  There are right ways and wrong - horribly wrong ways - to do this.  Think "Westboro Baptist Church" wrong.

But there was that time in the temple when Jesus attacked the moneychangers.  And Jesus did say "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matthew 23:13).  Pretty strong, confrontational words!  And if Jesus found it appropriate, so should we - sometimes.

However, there is also Jesus' treatment of the woman at the well in John 4.  She was a Samaritan and Jews didn't associate with "those people"; yet Jesus did.  When she tried to skirt around the issue of having had five husbands plus her current lover, Jesus didn't ignore or avoid the issue.  He still spoke with her and she left pretty impressed with His treatment of her.

Then there was the adulteress in John 8 who faced stoning.  After His famous line
"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." when everyone left, Jesus told the woman "go and sin no more".  He pointed out her sin and that of the crowd and told her to not sin anymore.

4.  Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners.  (Considering all that the IRS has been up to lately, believers should set up shop outside their office buildings -bad joke -  couldn't resist -sorry.)  Doing this takes wisdom and awareness of our susceptibility to various temptations, but we cannot wrap ourselves in a cocoon of righteousness; our faith will suffocate.  The Word does instruct us to guard our hearts yet that doesn't mean we're to go on full lockdown.  God provided us with armor to defend ourselves from attack as we go forth. 

I remember a story from about 25 years ago about my friend, Angelo.  He worked for the county nursing home where a number of the residents were on various government entitlement programs.  Part of his job required him to go to the local welfare office on behalf of some of the residents.  Quite often he had to stand in line with the other welfare folks and he would say or do things to make it known he wasn't there on personal business.  He didn't want people thinking he was on welfare or anything like that.  One time, while standing in line the Spirit reminded him that these were the people Jesus hung out with.  Ouch!  I still remember this story so many years later when I'm finding myself looking down on "certain folks".

When Jesus was at Zacchaeus' home He said "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  I certainly don't do the saving, but I do need to do more seeking and introduce the lost to my Saviour.

5.  Jesus was humble. He was God but He was also man.  He knew where He came from and He knew where He was going (John 13:4).  Knowing this, He was able to submit completely to the Father's will. 

Humility is NOT the "Aw shucks, I'm not THAT good" attitude.  That is false humility; and in fact, it could be construed as a form of pride, a means to garner attention to oneself and away from God.

Humility is the knowledge that God is sovereign; that He is in complete control of everything - the number of hairs on our heads, sparrows falling on the ground, weather.  The LORD giveth, the LORD taketh away.  We can do nothing without Him.  The surgeon who saved a life today?  God did it.  The baseball player who pitched a no-hitter? God did it.  The blogger who wrote a really insightful and inspirational post (Phil, is this insightful?).  God definitely did it!

I could come up with more than five expressions, but I think I'll close with this synopsis of Christ-like character using God's own words.  Micah 6:8 -Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.  And then there's Luke 10:27 - Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.  That's what Jesus did every moment of His life, until His last breath and beyond.

Hmm, maybe I could have done this in 140 characters!
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