I’ve heard a lot of testimonies about people who have become Christian. They say that their lives have become easier. They gave their lives over to God and it all got easier.
I don’t know what they are talking about. I think it gets harder.
In my opinion, when you become a Christian, you become awake. You are aware of the awesome responsibility that you have to be a force for good in the world. You switch from being passive to active.
Yes, there is a sense of your “Higher Power” as they say in AA. You aren’t in charge (and you never were), and you know that God is in charge. You can relax in that sense. And there is the sense that once you are saved, you are then set for when you die. You know where you will go.
But what about in between now and then? Do you just get to sit back and be smugly happy that you’ve got “it” and others don’t? Is being Christian some ugly game of musical chairs, where the loser gets condemned to an eternity in Hell? That doesn’t sound very nice. It also doesn’t sound very Christian. Not really. Not in the true sense of the word.
It does sound like the modern brand of Christian, unfortunately. There are plenty of folks who wear that name like a shield against the rest of the world. They use it like a “get out of jail free” card. They feel like it means they are set – they will live forever. But they then are arrogant about it. They lord The Lord over people. But life isn’t a game of Monopoly. It really isn’t about getting and buying more stuff and about screwing over other people on the way.
When I became Christian I didn’t get a full grasp of what it meant, and I suspect that I still don’t know the full depth of what my responsibilities are. I certainly don’t feel like I do it right all the time. I feel like it is a process, and instead of “Being” Christian, it is more like I’m “Becoming” Christian. It feels like every year I grow deeper into my faith and closer to understanding what the Bible means. I still find the idea of Jesus as “The WORD made flesh” really interesting and I think I have no real clue what that means. I think I have a glimmer of a hope of understanding it.
I feel like the most important thing about being a Christian is that it isn’t a free pass to Heaven. It is marching orders to the front lines of Hell. We are called to be Christ’s Body in this world. Literally. We are His arms and His legs. When folks say “How could God let that happen”, the real answer is “How can we, agents of God, let that happen?” We are to be a force for good. We are to bring forth God’s love. We are to let God work through us.
Jesus didn’t hang out in the swank part of town. He didn’t buy a huge mansion and wall himself off from the world. He was a man of the people. He walked out among average, everyday people who were lost and hungry and sick. He got right in the middle of the tangled knots of life and untangled them. He was a hands-on kind of guy.
He touched lepers. Nobody did that. Lepers were “unclean” in all the ways possible. They had an infectious skin disease that meant they had to live outside of the camp with other lepers. They didn’t get to see their families. They didn’t get to hang out with their friends. It was a lonely existence. They had to wear bells to announce they were lepers to anyone who might come near. If you touched a leper, then you too were considered “unclean.”
But Jesus didn’t care about that. He not only associated with lepers, He touched them, and He didn’t catch leprosy. He healed them.
It makes me wonder, how much of their healing was just being acknowledged by another person? How much of the healing was just being noticed AS a person? Every single person Jesus healed was precious to Him. He violated so many rules that were in place at that time – touching lepers, dead people, women who had menstrual problems. Any one of these conditions would render a person unclean in those days. None of these rules stopped him.
Jesus not only showed us what to do, he empowered us to do it. He showed us that we are to heal others. He gave power to heal to His disciples and through the power of apostolic succession we have that power too. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have it. Be assured – if you are Christian, you have that power.
So what is our modern day leprosy? What are the conditions that people find themselves in that make them excluded from society? What conditions make people pariahs? What conditions create invisible social walls that make people “unclean” in our society’s eyes? Thus – what places are we called to break down those walls and build bridges?
How about mental illness? How about being a single mother? How about AIDS? How about being gay? There are others, but this is a good start.
If you are a Christian, you have the power to heal. You have within you the means to bring forth God’s mercy and healing. All you have to do is let it happen. You don’t need special training. Just pray, and Jesus will show you how. It is that easy, and that hard. It is terrifying at first. It goes against all of our social rules. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t get involved. Don’t make a scene. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world. The rules of society no longer apply. Jesus broke rules all the time. We are called to do the same. This often means getting out of your comfort zone. This often means taking a risk. It isn’t easy, but it is essential.
Now, it isn’t about passing judgment, and it certainly isn’t about passing laws against people. These actions create separation. We are called to bring together all the lost sheep. We are to show love and kindness and mercy to everyone. We are not to tell others that what they are doing is wrong in our opinion. We are to love them. By loving them, we are healing them. We are healing the rifts that divide people into “us” and “them”.
How do you bring forth healing? One way is to treat every person as if they are Jesus in disguise. This is how Mother Theresa acted. She felt that it was her honor to wash Jesus’ wounds when she washed a leper. She held Jesus in her arms when a frail elderly person died. You don’t have to work at a non-profit to do this. You can do this in your everyday job. Treat each person fairly and kindly. Don’t gossip. Be patient. Show actual interest in each person. Give each person your full attention and your time. When you start doing this you may find it is a little overwhelming and exhausting. Keep it up. It gets easier. It is just like exercise – you get stronger the more you do it.
We are given two commandments – love God, and similarly, love your neighbor as yourself. Every person is a child of God. Every person has within her or him a spark of the light of God. So, treat every person with kindness and respect and love. In Matthew 22:37 we hear these words from Jesus – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We, as Christians, are called to show the same focus and intensity to “the least of these”, to the “unclean”, to everyone.