“What have you done today that only a Christian would do?”
This is the sixth of seven in a countdown of life-commitments for 2015.
So what have you done? As followers of Christ, we promise ourselves to stop trying to be better and start being different.
The first five commitments are:
Commitment 7: Don’t get so easily Offended
Commitment 6: Don’t be so Offensive
Commitment 5: Get Equipped
Commitment 4: Get Accountable
Commitment 3: Get rid of Agendas
Read the brief descriptions in the five posts below to review or catch up. Each commitment builds on the previous ones and is intended to help guide our choices as followers of Christ to be different.
The commitments become more personal as we head to number one.
Commitment 2: Love. Serve. Pray. Repeat.
So, back to the question: “What have you done today that only a Christian would do?”
Maybe the question is better asked, “How have you lived today as a Christian?”
How would a follower of Christ . . .
Drive a car?
Read the newspaper?
Treat your waiter at a restaurant?
Check out at Wal-Mart?
Respond to an insult?
Walk by a homeless person?
Think about past hurts?
The answer to all of these is “differently.” There are no rules to follow but in every case a follower of Christ lives differently from others in ways that matter.
Phil Savage, the former General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, told us about the time he and his wife spent a day at a NASCAR Driving Experience in North Carolina. With about ten other people (all male), Phil and his wife took the morning training class which included detailed instructions for driving high performance automobiles at incredibly fast speeds. Phil said the instructions were complicated. “When to accelerate; how much to bank on the turns; how to pass. All decisions to make at over 100 miles an hour.”
In the afternoon, the group competed against each other in three multi-lap races. A professional pace car driver sped ahead of them to make sure none of the drivers overdid it.
Much to the surprise of the other drivers, Phil’s wife won the first race handily. And the second.
And the third.
At the dinner that evening, the men paid homage to her for humbling them so completely on the race track. Afterwards, Phil asked her, “How did you do it? How could you keep up with all of those instructions? I was struggling just to remember them.”
She smiled and said, “Oh, I didn’t think about any of that. I just followed the pace car.”
Most of the time, we feel like NASCAR drivers barreling around a track in a crowd of super-charged cars. Trying to remember all of the biblical truths and spiritual life hacks we have been taught only overwhelm and confuse us. We become tentative, passive.
We think that all we need is more instruction. More Bible. More theology. More preaching. More worship. More prayer.
But Jesus is saying: “Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.”
The command Jesus gave more than any other is, “Follow me.” No hidden, esoteric meaning here. He intends that we fall in line behind him and follow in his steps.
So how do we do this? He radiated Gods’ presence and expected us to pay attention. The most obvious features of his everyday life are on display for us to follow. In fact, he told us to emulate three in particular: love, serve, and pray.
First, . . .
Jesus startled the theologians when he told them that the greatest command was not to obey, worship or serve God – but to love him with their whole being (Matthew 22:37). The command was well-known, part of the great declaration of faith (Deut. 6:5) but then he tied to another command: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). These two commands, he said, summarize all of God’s law. Just do these and you’re in life’s sweet spot.
Jesus – the great simplifier.
Current culture has diluted the force of “love” and it comes across as cliché. The truth is that love is the most difficult and intentional act we practice. The choice we make in life is not between loving and hating. Our default is to do neither. The other side of love is not hate or rejection, but doing nothing; not caring at all. Apathy and passivity chill the life of the follower.
True devotion to God, Jesus said, is realized by loving those around us; meeting needs when we come upon them; being God’s heart to a loveless world.
He said that people would notice our love for each other and conclude that we are his followers (John 13:35). But love doesn’t stop there. He broadens the heart to include all of his creation, even loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We treat everyone with grace because that is how he treats us.
This kind of love is no burden because it explodes from the life of the Christian as a response to the love extravagantly poured out on us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:20).
Manning says, “The axis of the moral revolution is love, and it is the only sign given by Jesus by which the disciple would be recognized. . . Turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, offering no resistance to injury, being reconciled with one’s brother, and forgiving seventy times seven are not arbitrary whims of the Son of Man.”
Because we are so loved, we cannot help but . . .
Serving is just love in action. Jesus said that he did not come to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28).
When Jesus told us that loving God was the greatest command he pointed out that the consequence of that was loving “our neighbor as ourselves.” He then gives an illustration of a social outcast going out of his way to care for a Jewish stranger who had been beaten and robbed.
“Go and do likewise” he said.
Love cannot be silent or passive. As Bob Goff writes, Love Does [a fabulous (and hilarious) collection of stories of how love is seen in everyday life. It is subtitled: “Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World”].
Serving is not patronizing duty, but passionate engagement.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10).
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).
Then, Jesus pointed us upward, so we . . .
The only activity the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. He prayed so often and so fervently that they saw it as a key to his life. His conversation with his Father was the critical mass for the radiant life.
Haddon Robinson says,
“For Jesus . . .
Prayer was the battle; ministry was the spoils;
Prayer was the final exam; ministry was the graduation;
Prayer was not the preparation for the fight; it was the fight.
Jesus did not sweat as great drops of blood in Pilate’s hall but in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before.”
I have a friend who addresses God as “Dad” when he prays. My friend’s life has been filled with incredible difficulty, addictions and rejection. For years he turned his back on God and when he returned it was through God’s loving intervention of acceptance, forgiveness, and grace. Now his prayers are personal and intimate. Some Christians would try to correct his use of “Dad,” but he is not talking to them. He is talking with his Father who knows his brokenness and loves him because of it.
Jesus never intended for us to follow a list of rules or to do nice things when it is convenient. He called us to follow him in a way that is so natural and consistent that it defines us. Every day.
A good life is made up of good days. Jesus told us to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). Every day we have the opportunity to reboot our lives and start fresh. He asks us to because he knows that we can lose heart when we rehearse the hurts of the past or fear the challenges of the future. Today is all we can handle so his mercies are new every morning because his faithfulness is so great.
So, what have you done today that only a follower of Christ would do?
Love. Serve. Pray.
They are simple. Difficult. Life-changing. Different.
NEXT: The Number One Commitment for the Christian Life