Monday, April 27, 2015

Family? Just Business?

“I’m doing it for my family.”

“It’s just business.”

How many times have I heard the above as an excuse to break one’s word? How many times have I heard it from professing Christians? How many times have these excuses been used to rationalize unfaithfulness to Jesus Christ?

It is as if the call to obey Jesus Christ and His commandments is optional and can be trumped anytime our economic interests are at stake. Life is not about seeing how much money we can amass, how many things we can acquire, how much entertainment we can consume, and how many people acknowledge us. Life, at least for the Christian, is about following Jesus Christ. At least that is what the Scriptures teach us – perhaps they are outdated?

If I follow Christ it stands to reason that there will be times of economic and material loss, for to follow Christ is to live contrary to the present age and the things it admires and values. Oswald Chambers wrote to the effect that we use our families and others as an excuse for disobedience, we say, “Surely God does not want my family to suffer, surely God knows that others will not understand my obedience to the commands of Jesus and the call to follow Jesus.”

Money (and other things) can be a narcotic; give us just enough not to dare obedience to Jesus lest we lose what we have; give us just enough so that we’ll want more. Give us more so we can own more, and so what we own turns around and owns us – then we will not be owned by Jesus and then we can easily rationalize away our disobedience. Of course God understands, of course He does. Of course Jesus Christ hanging on the Cross understands. Of course the saints suffering for Jesus elsewhere at this present time understand.

The Cross has been replaced by the dollar ($) sign and our hearts have been seduced.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nashville – Part Five

Joe and Sally were good to me. By that I mean that they made me welcome in my new workplace and they made me welcome into their home. In the kitchen at Ireland’s Steak and Biscuits they showed me how to cook and present the menu – my task was the production-oriented steak and biscuits and ham and biscuits; Joe cooked the specialty steaks and Sally provided the fries, baked potatoes, and other fixin’s. I was quite fine with Joe cooking the higher-priced steaks since the last thing I wanted to do was to mess up on my new job.

The best meal I had while in Nashville was cornbread and pinto beans at Joe and Sally’s. It was my best meal because of the company, because they invited me into their home. We played “spades” well into the night, eating pinto beans and cornbread; the joy of their friendship, friendship to someone who had been a stranger just a few weeks before – made those basic foods taste as if they were being served on the Queen Mary.

Early on in Nashville I met Dylan, a young man about my age. I invited him to go to church with me. He told me that he couldn’t go because he didn’t have “church” clothes. I told him that if he’d go with me that I wouldn’t wear my “church” clothes; I told him that it wouldn’t matter how we were dressed, we’d just wear our normal everyday clothes. On a Sunday morning we went to a church, walked inside, stayed for the service, and walked out; no one engaged us in conversation. I was wrong about what would happen if we didn’t wear “church” clothes.

I hope Dylan came to know Jesus. I hope Joe and Sally came to know Jesus and had a good life, I hope they stayed together and got married and are healthy and happy. I wonder if they ever think about me. Probably not, they had a greater effect on me than I had on them, I was a stranger and they took me in, they gave me friendship.

If I had been black and gone into a white neighborhood in the Civil Rights era what are the chances that a family would have rented me a room when I couldn’t pay for it until my first payday? What is the likelihood that white coworkers would have invited me into their homes?

I was a stranger and they took me in. There are some things you never forget. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Nashville – Part Four

Across the hall from me lived a college student named Jackie. Since he attended classes during the day and I worked at night we didn’t see each other often. We’d talk occasionally but again, we didn’t see each other very often. I imagine, in retrospect, I was a curiosity to him; a white boy living in a black home in a black neighborhood in the Civil Rights Era, a time when students from Fiske University in Nashville were risking their lives championing the cause of civil rights.      

One afternoon when I was off work he invited me to go out to lunch with him. We went to a restaurant filled with folks of all ages – I was the only white person, but I didn’t think anything of it. He introduced me to some of his friends, we talked, and had a nice lunch.

If you’ve read this blog since its inception you know that I was expelled from a South Carolina seminary for preaching that we are to love people of all skin colors through the indwelling Christ – believe me when I say that I did nothing meritorious in this, nor that I deserve any credit whatsoever – it was simply what I believed the Bible taught and what the Bible taught I naturally believed. I didn’t think about the ramifications of what I said, any more than I was conscious of being the only white person in the restaurant that Jackie took me to, it was only in retrospect that it occurred to me that I was the only white guy, and it was only in retrospect that I realized that the seminary administration might not take kindly to my message of loving one another as Jesus loves us.

I guess you could say that in this season of life I was na├»ve, and foolish, and maybe even just plain stupid (such as travelling to Nashville with virtually no money); there are some things I wouldn’t have done had I been cautious that I’m glad I did…but then there are other things I’m sorry I did do that perhaps I wouldn’t have done had I been more thoughtful. I’ve never second guessed my message at seminary on loving one another and I think it was the mercy of God that got me expelled, after all, the fundamentals of the Christian life are to love God and love our neighbor.

Sad to say sometimes I’m more cautious now that I want to be; need to keep reminding myself that this life will soon be over, both for me and those around me, and that we’re not accidents looking for a place to happen. I want to be faithful to Jesus Christ, to my family and neighbors and coworkers…and to you, dear reader.