There is a sort of unspoken yet widely known benefit of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being together. (aka Brangelina) Whenever they appear on the TV together; you as a husband you get to look at Angelina and not get in trouble. This is mostly because your wife is too busy looking at Brad Pitt to notice. (this is also true of Tim and Faith)
And so it was that I was watching Brangelina on Larry King Live in early summer of 07. They were talking about the stuff that they were doing as far as raising awareness, bringing change, giving money towards the cause of the poor and vulnerable around the world. I was watching a couple of folks who for all intents and purposes probably don’t know the Lord and might not even like the Lord, but they were doing the very things that God had called “true religion” in the book of James.
I sat there thinking the things that people think when watching rich and/ or powerful people do something impacting and world changing. I was thinking, “if I ever get rich or powerful then I would do the same thing”. It’s interesting that I would think this when you consider the encounter that a rich man had with Jesus in Matthew. (Matt 19:16-26)
Jesus would tell him that he should sell all he had, GIVE IT TO THE POOR, and follow Christ. This was too much, the rich man walked away. If he had followed Jesus command he wouldn’t be rich any more. The irony is that Jesus told this guy he could make an impact by becoming poor and I wanted to make an impact by becoming rich. Yet another paradox brought to you courtesy of the God of all the Universe.
It was in this vignette that Jesus would say that it’s impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Of course the Disciples were kind of panicked thinking if this guy couldn’t get into heaven then whom? Jesus goes on to say with man it is indeed impossible but with God all things are possible. For you and I that live in America, and are in the top 5% of the world’s wealth, that is especially good news.
That night watching Larry King Live God started to do something in me. In between clips from Mr and Mrs Smith and Lara Croft Tomb Raider God was doing something in me. It wasn’t Damascus Road Pauline style or whatever, but something started in me that night. I initially used the metaphor that God had downloaded something into me, but I have come to realize that is not the right picture. What really happened was that God planted seeds inside of me. The parable of the Sower in Luke 8 says that the seed is the Word of God. The Word of God was planted in me.
When seeds are planted they do their initial and most dramatic work under the surface and out of sight. They begin to disrupt the ground around them as they grow and push soil out of the way creating the life giving, anchoring foundation of roots. Things were changing inside of me, my soul was being disrupted, displaced and filled with something else. Eventually the plant breaks through the surface and ultimately there is fruit. This process takes time. It takes patience. The Bible says that Love is patient. Good thing.
As the seeds have slowly but surely grown in me I started to realize the flaws in MY plans and MY logic of how I would serve the Lord. I was spending so much time and energy building towards this seemingly noble goal that always seemed to lie just out of reach. How many years would I spend building a fortune compared to how many years I would have left to devote to following the Lord. In the mean time I would be missing out on the opportunities that are right in front of me. I was spending so much time asking what about then, that I forgot to ask what about now.
In truth I was like the folks in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The two guys that walked on by were a priest and a Levite. They were folks who were in the ministry so to speak. It’s always my tendency to try and relate to the guy in the story or parable that does it right, but as usual I had way more in common with the guy blowing it in the story.
Jesus told the parable to a religious scholar; to a guy who would have related to the Levite or the priest more than the half-breed marginalized Samaritan. He was schooled in the law, the law being the Mosaic Law. Like me he would probably have been very busy with the programs and rules and regulations and striving to be good and tithing and etc. So busy that, just like the priest and Levite he too would walk right by someone in need.
It’s easy to assume that they walked by because they were jerks. It’s easy to think they were so religious doing the work of ministry that they weren’t feeling the heart of ministry, which is a word that simply means to serve. Maybe it was because they didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to help, felt unqualified or inadequate. Jesus doesn’t say why, only that they did, and that it was an unacceptable response.
The religious scholar had asked Jesus who was HIS neighbor was in a sort of ploy to narrow the definition of neighbor. How did Jesus define a neighbor? Seems to me that the parable indicates whoever comes across our path in need is our neighbor.
The part of that story that stands out to me was that the guys that walk by did see the guy who was beaten and left for dead. They knew. They saw the need but for whatever reason walked by. They distanced themselves physically and emotionally and kept going. (luke 10:30-37)
Here’s a twist. In our modern world our sight line has expanded greatly. Because of things like Cable News and the Internet you and I get to see people in need that previously we might not have known. We are able to encounter people whose lives are ravaged by poverty, war, and injustice. To put it simply, “we know”. Jesus seemed to define neighbor as anyone that comes across our paths. Does it count when I see it on the news or in a documentary? I suspect it does.
What are we to do with those that we encounter? For too long I didn’t know what to do, didn’t feel qualified to do it, and so I turned the channel or went to a different website. I distanced myself physically and emotionally and kept going. Not anymore. The Conduit is a rallying point for us to work together serving our “neighbors”. It’s a platform for us to stand side by side and bandage up the wounds of those that God has brought across our paths. The Samaritan not only physically took care of the needs, but He used his own money and resources to provide the care.
It’s so much more fun to relate to the right guy in the story; to be on the right side of history; to live as Jesus commanded.
Tomorrow night is somewhat of a work night at Conduit. We’re going to hit Exodus 6, and we’re going to dig deep, but we’re also going to put together gift bags. We’ve got stuff for 20 gift bags for residents at Place of Hope. Many if not most of the patients there are without families and / or money and their Christmases tend to be a little sad. We’ll work as a group to stuff the bags that’ll be delivered to them on December 21. If you happen to have 20 of something such as CDs, shirts, etc please feel free to bring them. We already have quite a bit of stuff, but more is always welcome.
We’re back at Journey Ecclesia in Building 8 at The Factory in Franklin at 7:30pm. It’s our last Conduit gathering of 08, I hope to see you there.
http://www.conduitmission.org Thanks to those of you who have joined with us. We put your money to work immediately. Everyone is volunteering at Conduit and we put your money right into the hands of those serving on the front lines. Remember that $15 feeds a child for a month in Haiti.
http://www.darrentyler.podomatic.com teachings from Monday nights here.