"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jesus Knows Best

In the final chapter of his book, Finding God in the Questions, Dr. Timothy Johnson (physician and journalist for GMA on ABC News) quoted from Matthew 25:31-45 where Jesus told how people would be separated on the day of judgment. Dr. Johnson says, "Jesus' checklist is truly startling when you look at what is left out, in contrast to the dominant emphases of so much modern religious teaching." (pg. 185) Things such as "no mention of correct thinking" (e.g. learning the creeds and fundamentals of Christianity in the "right" way), "no mention of correct positions on social or political issues" (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, the proper place of women), "no mention of power or fame or wealth" (e.g. net worth, educational achievements), "no mention of time spent in traditional religious practices." However Jesus said the things that would keep us "from being a goat on judgment day is crystal clear - namely, attention to the 'least important ones.' Obviously these people were very important to Jesus, but he knew - as we all do if we are honest - that they are usually not very important to us." Jesus' whole life was about ministering to the needy, meeting needs, reaching out to the hurting, righting wrongs. So "we must be willing to live our lives in service to others." (pg. 185-187).

Dr. Johnson told about a career journalist who had interviewed many many "stars" over the years -- NFL players, movie actors, best-selling authors, politicians and so forth. This person said although we fawn over them and want to know every detail of their lives, he found most of these "'idols are as miserable a group of people as I have ever met. Most have troubled or broken marriages. Nearly all are incurably dependent on psychotherapy. In a heavy irony, these larger-than-life heroes seem tormented by self-doubt.'" By contrast he also spent time with people who had worked with the "ultimate outcasts" like the lepers in India and the homeless in America. People who'd left high-paying jobs to serve in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other such places. He writes, "'I was prepared to honor and admire these servants, to hold them up as inspiring examples. I was not prepared to envy them. Yet as I now reflect on the two groups side by side, stars and servants, the servants clearly emerge as the favored ones, the graced ones. Without question, I would rather spend time among the servants than among the stars: they possess qualities of depth and richness and even joy that I have not found elsewhere.'" (pg. 191)

I loved this! It seems Jesus' example for us to follow -- loving and serving others -- is the very thing that will bring the most richness and joy to our lives.

And Jesus also taught that the greatest among you is the one who serves others.



Unknown said...

It is a great reminder. :) Thanks. It actually sort of makes me feel better about my sister, who recently has felt called to be a missionary in Africa. All I've been thinking about is how much I'll miss her and how dangerous it could be, and it's been really hard for me to actually be happy for her and want her to go. Reading this helped me to see it differently and be happy that God's blessed her with that desire. I know he can use her and protect her.

On the other side of that, it makes me feel inadequate. I'm going into ministry, I talk about love and serving all the time, but I don't know where to start. Something I'll have to really work on.

Achelois said...

I can't recall where I read it but someone wrote that Jesus' teachings were more social than religious. He wrote it like a criticism but I saw it as the best part of his teaching.

Even when I had not realized Jesus as my guide and teacher, I loved him the most because his message was to bring everyone to good and that is worship in my book. To serve His creation is to worship God. So yes, Jesus knows best :)

Susanne said...

Sanil, that's so interesting about your sister! My mom's parents were missionaries to Africa back in the '50s and 2 of her brothers went to West Africa in the '80s. My grandfather still has a huge love for the Africans and talks about them often even though he is 83 and has dementia presently. :) It's so neat when God gives you a great love for people ... often it is one other people simply can't understand - until it happens to them! :)

You wrote:

"On the other side of that, it makes me feel inadequate. I'm going into ministry, I talk about love and serving all the time, but I don't know where to start."

Oh, I am like you in that! Sometimes I think, "Should I go volunteer at the community soup kitchen or what exactly? How should I serve and show Christlike love to others?" I see I am not alone in that. Thanks for your comment.

Achelois, *to me* Jesus is not about religion at all. Religion is more concerned with keeping rules and laws and rituals and tradition in order to please God, whereas, Jesus showed us that those things are NOT the most important. Serving others, showing love, compassion, mercy and justice is much, much more in line with God's heart. People in my circles often shun the "religion" label preferring to say that Christianity is a "relationship." We believe Jesus came to restore the relationship between God and men and women that was broken by sin.

Thanks for sharing what that writer said. It seems s/he desired ritual/tradition/rules above other things...hmmm. Maybe because people can mark their spiritual progress better when it's like a religious to-do list.

Said my five prayers today. (check)

Gave charity to needy family. (check)

Said "alhamdulilah" and "insh'allah" and "ma'ashallah" at appropriate times. (check)

Didn't work on the Sabbath (check)

Ate kosher (check)

Took communion at the church (check)

Read the Bible/Quran/Torah (check)

Instead of serving our fellow men, we base on goodness on keeping a list of rules. I think this misses the point entirely.

Jesus told the Pharisees that they put so many rules on the people that they were like burdens on their shoulders. And Jesus said the Pharisees disregarded the most important things. (see Matthew 23)

Thank you both for your thoughtful comments! Enjoyed those!