For the past six weeks (40 days) our congregation has been engaged in The Red Letter Challenge. We’ve taken a fresh look at the words of Jesus and what it means to “put them into practice”. To date we’ve examined four primary themes within the teachings of Jesus (Being, Forgiving, Serving and Giving) and this Sunday we will add the fifth – Going.
Each of the Gospels (including the two volume set of Luke-Acts) ends with a command, or commissioning, for the followers of Jesus to “go” with the good news of Christ Jesus. We may be most familiar with the words found in Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, where the connotation is “as you are going” about your life, or your routine, “make disciples”.
Have you ever known someone who has a “giving” nature, but also needs to let you know they are “giving”? I mean, they’d give you the shirt off their back, or the remaining groceries from their pantry; but they would also groan or moan, sigh and fuss all the while. Know anyone like that? In vocabulary terms these folks would be called oxymoron’s – the pairing of two things that don’t appear to go together – giving & hurting while you give. They practice a form of martyrdom giving. It’s a bit confusing when you are on the receiving end of such giving. “Do they want to give this, or don’t they? I’m getting mixed messages!”
“Giving” is the fourth topic of the Red Letter Challenge – a deep dive into the words and teachings of Jesus intended to help us “put his words into practice”. Jesus had a lot to say and model about giving. He talked about it quite a lot and gave us some terrific examples, with the gift of himself being the ultimate one. Jesus’ giving was accompanied by hurt and pain. He gave until it hurt. He gave his all. He gave his life. But Jesus didn’t allow the hurt or pain of the gift to surpass the purpose or love behind the gift.
When I was a kid I had the opportunity to serve for a day as a page with our state representative in the Indiana General Assembly. Looking back on that day, I remember getting a picture taken alongside our state rep and another student from my school, in the Indiana House. I remember running errands, delivering messages, watching the House at work, and getting a tour of the state capitol. But my most vivid memory from the day is that our state representative, himself, picked us up in his car at school, drove us to the state house, went with us to lunch, and gave as a ride home. In other words, this busy, political leader spent a considerable amount of time with a couple of high school kids. He personally invested in our education that day. He repeatedly engaged us in conversation, and listened to what we had to say. He saw to our needs and comfort. He served us – two of his not yet able to vote constituents.
This elected official was respected in our community. He won re-election several times over. He was a public servant in the best understanding of that title. I think of him, and others like him, as our congregation moves into the week of the “Red Letter Challenge” devoted to service.
I have often said that among the first steps of discipleship is “learning to be with Jesus”. It is by “being” with Jesus that we become more like him. Attempts to skip over the “being” part of discipleship will result in our “doing” things in our own power and effort – a sure path to disappointment or burnout.
This week in the Red Letter Challenge, a 40 day emphasis we are sharing together at First Baptist – Columbus, our focus is on the words of Jesus that have to do with “being”. Consider just a few of these “being” messages:
“Abide” (dwell/be) in my word.” – John 8:31
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” – Mark 6:31
You’ve probably heard it said that we homo sapiens are misnamed? Instead of being called “human beings” we might better be called “human doings”. But, as we’re learning in the Red Letter Challenge, our doing flows out of our being.
The following faith practices might be helpful as we reconsider how we are “being” with Jesus:
- Keeping Sabbath
I invite you to join us this Sunday live (9:30 a.m.) or via live stream as we take up the topic “being” and further reflect on Jesus’ words.
Author’s Note: This post concludes a 3-post set offered in companionship to a 3-part sermon series I preached in August titled “Distracted”. You can view the series here, as I preach from 3 of John’s 7 Letters to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 to talk about the distractions of busyness, the fear of missing out, and complacency. Thanks for reading.
There is an old fable about a frog who was put into a kettle of tepid or lukewarm water. He was quite comfortable in the water and so stayed there. Gradually, however, the water temperature was turned up until it came to a boil. The change was so incremental that the frog did not perceive the danger and he was cooked to death.
Perhaps that fable is an illustration of complacency and the dangers such a condition poses to our faith. The living Christ describes the Church at Laodicea, in Revelation 3:14-22, as “lukewarm”. He wishes they were either hot or cold, but because their spiritual condition is lukewarm, he threatens to spit them out of his mouth. As a coffee drinker I find I can relate to the illustration. I like my coffee hot or cold (iced coffee being a relatively new enjoyment). When it’s lukewarm? No thanks! Yuck! In fact, I think I have spit it back into the cup before.