Yesterday morning, I was reading through John and came across the following passage in John 10:24-25:
The people surrounded him and said, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.”
As I was meditating on this, I found it so interesting that as much as Jesus may have shared with the people that he was the Messiah, when he was questioned about this, his response was that the proof was in the work that he had done. This seemed pretty incredible that Jesus, the Savior of the world, when asked who he was, stated that the answer was in what he did. Yes, he does tell people who he is but the validity of this truth is backed up by his actions.
As I thought about this, I considered a situation where someone may come up to me and ask, are you a Christian or a follower of Jesus? I could easily answer, “Yes, I am,” but that may or may not carry much weight. Could I say, as Jesus did, that the proof of my commitment to Christ is in the work that I do? Do the actions of my daily life clearly mark me as a follower of Jesus?
I can’t help but think that sometimes we define our Christianity more by what we don’t do than what we do. We can focus on the sins of commission and forget the sins of omission. I don’t lie, I don’t steal, I don’t use bad language, I don’t cheat, I don’t this or that. Maybe we add a few I dos, like I do go to church most Sundays, I do read my Bible occasionally, I do pray before my meals. I am not saying that any of these things are irrelevant but I am not sure that these things alone paint a clear picture of a Jesus follower. The I dos listed here – church, reading the Bible, prayer – are not the goal but the means by which we are equipped to know Jesus and to live like Jesus.
Jesus demonstrated a life of sacrifice, of taking care of the poor, the sick, the neglected by society. He poured his life into other people, fed them, talked to them, wept with them, and loved them. He had time for people. In today’s culture of busyness, every minute of my life is plotted. The other day, I was running errands and I was on a tight schedule. I made a wrong turn and had to make a U-turn. In the parking lot I pulled into, as I turned around, I noticed a woman with two shopping carts, sitting on the ground near the back, clearly homeless. For a second I thought, if I had time, I would like to go and talk to her. But I barely slowed down. I was back on the road within a minute.
I keep thinking about this woman and so many others that I have passed over in my life. It reminds me of the story in Matthew 25 where God separates the sheep from the goats, those who will enter heaven from those who will not. Those who cared for the lowliest of people, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, to them Jesus says that will enter heaven, for whatever they did for one of these people it was as if they did it to Him. I feel like there is opportunity all around me to minister to Jesus and yet sometimes I just pass by, too busy.
I have been re-reading A Simple Path, which is a book about Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity. This book reveals the approach to ministry that the Missionaries of Charity have, to embrace suffering and poverty in order to empathize with those they serve. They do this in order to follow Christ’s example of embracing the suffering of the cross to demonstrate His love for us. Above the crucifixes in all of their chapels worldwide are the words “I thirst” as a reminder to the missionaries of the implications of their work. Part of their constitution states: “Our aim is to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for love of souls. We serve Jesus in the poor, we nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, visit Him.” That just struck me, to be so focused on serving Christ through serving the suffering in our world. Their focus for their lives is to minister to Jesus through their ministry to the least in society. Just because I love it so much, I want to share Mother Theresa’s definition of the least in society. It is as follows:
The hungry and the lonely, not only for food but for the Word of God; the thirsty and the ignorant, not only for water but for knowledge, peace, truth, justice and love; the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity; the unwanted, the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves; the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body but also in mind and spirit: all those who have lost all faith and hope in life, the alcoholics and drug addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.
These people are all around us, in our neighborhoods, on the streets of our cities, in the foster care group homes, in the AA meetings, in the break room at work, in the local bar. They are in the red light districts in Amsterdam, in the rice fields of Cambodia, the brick kilns of India, the brothels of Thailand, the war fields of Africa, the cholera beds in Haiti. The challenge is when we see them, the individual faces that surround us, do we want to serve them, suffer with them, and fight for them as Jesus did? Will observers be able to say of us, Christians, and the church at large, that the proof of our faith is in what we do – that we are set apart, marked as a people that cares deeply about the needs and the sufferings of others, so much that we would be willing to sacrifice our own comforts, time, and lives for their sake?