Dr. Martin was enjoying a rare lunch break during an unusually slow day at the office. Instead of grabbing a sandwich at the hospital where he worked, he’d decided to walk the half mile to the little café down the street. While he was eating, he looked around at the other patrons. A group of ladies were talking and laughing two tables down, another couple looked as though they were in a heated argument. There was one other person also there by himself. A robust looking man, with a large plate of pasta in front of him. The man was sweating, and his lunch hadn’t been touched. Dr. Martin noticed the man was gripping the table, and seemed to be struggling for breath.
The doctor picked up his sandwich and took a bite. He chewed slowly, all the while watching the other man. The man pulled at his collar, clutched at his chest, and slumped over onto the table. One of the ladies two tables down let out a scream, and the whole restaurant seemed to erupt in chaos. “Doctor!! Somebody call a doctor! I think he’s having a heart attack!!”
Dr. Martin took another bite of his sandwich. He thought to himself, “I know I could help him. I know what to do. But my profession is my business. It's personal. It’s not something I want to share with the whole world.”
A ridiculous scenario, isn’t it? A doctor, spending thousands of dollars on medical school, countless hours interning, and weeks of sleepless nights in the E.R. only to decide his expertise is private. Not something he wants to share. That would never happen. In fact, it didn’t. There is no Dr. Martin (that I’m acquainted with), and I made that story up. But here’s one that might hit closer to home.
Kelley and Rachel met in college and have been best friends ever since. They share a two bedroom apartment in a trendy area near downtown. Back before they started their careers, they were joined at the hip, hitting all the fun clubs, always the life of the party. Then Kelley got a job at a prestigious law firm. Early mornings…late nights…70 hour work weeks. Rachel got a job too, selling ads for a glamorous magazine. She had a pretty laid-back boss. As long as she made her numbers and kept her clients happy, she could pretty much come and go as she pleased.
Kelley started a Saturday morning bible study, and Rachel started entertaining clients during the week. It always involved expensive dinners, exotic wines, and partying all hours of the night. Kelley found a vibrant fast growing church, and never missed a Sunday service. Rachel would meet her out for brunch after….if she woke up in time.
Kelley started to notice that Rachel seemed unhappy. She was always tired, always frustrated. Rachel didn’t understand how Kelley always seemed so peaceful, when Kelley worked twice as much as she did and made half the money. Kelley thought about asking her to go to church, but knew her roommate would never get up that early. She thought about witnessing to her, but knew Rachel would just shrug it off. Or even worse, make fun of her. So Kelley said nothing. And the two continued to drift further…and further…apart.
Do you see a parallel here? It may not seem like it, but the two scenarios are equally ridiculous. We laugh at the first one and say "that would never happen!" But the second one makes us squirm. It happens all the time. And it's is an offense to God.
God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to live among us, to die a sinners’ death, and how do we repay that? “My faith is my business,” we tell ourselves. “My relationship with God is private.” “I don’t want people to think I’m a bible beater.” Do you know what that makes us, as Christians? Useless. It makes us absolutely useless to the body of Christ. James writes in chapter 3, verse 14, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone.”
It’s a major deal to James…he spends a good chunk of his letter to the Jewish Christians telling them that faith without works means nothing. And it should be a major deal to us. It’s like having a paralyzed arm. An arm that can’t move is of no use to the body.
I love the next verse, where it really gets convicting. James 3:15, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, goodbye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” That person doesn’t need your prayers, he needs your coat! That woman doesn’t need your blessing, she needs 5 bucks to get some McDonalds!
I’m guilty of it. I can’t really remember the last time I asked someone to go to church with me. But I do try to make my faith a natural part of conversation. And I understand that it can be intimidating. But it’s what we’re called to do as Christians. It’s our job…to spread the good news. Luke 24: 47, Jesus tells His disciples, “With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’” We’re so quick to rush out and tell all of our friends about a great sale. “Cute retro t-shirts at Target, 10 bucks!” Why is it so difficult to tell those we cross paths with every day about the Good News that could change their life forever?
Not everyone is called to ministry, and not everyone is called to evangelize. Those are very special, specific callings from God. But every last one of us IS called to witness. We are most certainly called to love each other, and serve each other.
One of my daily prayers is that I would love people…really LOVE them…just as God loves us. And trust me, friends, some people in my life can be pretty tough to love. I pray that God would open my eyes…to see people…just as God sees us. I probably miss that goal more than I hit it, but I'm working on it. This is a crazy, mixed up world, but we’re all in it together. We all have issues. How much better would things be if we really, truly followed Jesus’ two most important commandments? Mark 12:29-31, “Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
That’s pretty powerful. And pretty straight forward. Hard to plead ignorance when the bible says...loving each other is every bit as important as loving God. So here is your challenge. Who is in your immediate circle of influence? Are you witnessing with your lifestyle? Do you show love to the office gossip that suddenly stops whispering when you walk in the room? What about that parent on the PTA that just has to be in charge of everything? Or that darn kid that’s making your child’s life miserable? Jesus loves them just as much as He loves you. They are just as precious in His sight. For the next 3 days, just love them. Don’t expect anything back. Just treat them like Jesus would if He were here. Find ways to serve them. Love them like you love those closest to you. You might be surprised…your living witness might change their heart. It will most certainly change yours.