Month: December 2019

Jesus Has Such A Hold On Me

Each week a few devout readers respond to my blog posts. Some of them want to engage in a genuine way. Others are snarky and dismissive and apparently want nothing more than to announce how unintelligent I am.

(Hint: I don’t need a reminder… I am keenly aware of it)

I very rarely approve and post a comment on this site… I gueImage result for commentsss it just seems to be a bit self-serving. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read feedback… I just don’t post them all the time.

Recently, one comment caught my attention and stayed with me for a while. The person told me that he was enjoying the article until Jesus popped up.

What came to mind for me initially was the image of Jesus leaping out from behind a door to say “boo” or springing out of a jack-in-the-box. It made me chuckle. But eventually, the comment made me think about what it is about this Jesus that has such a hold on me.

Well, it’s something Jesus said. And it might be surprising to some people that these particular words would draw me so powerfully to Jesus that I would devote my life to following him. But, anyway, here it is. Jesus said, “They do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

He didn’t say it like, “What a group of idiots!” Or, “How clueless can you get!” Or, “You can’t fix stupid!” And he certainly didn’t say, “To hell with those people!” On the contrary, he said, “Forgive them.” “Let’s work with this.”

Jesus embodies compassion. He sees us for who we really are and embraces us. Jesus understands that we all act like we know exactly what we’re doing and we’re really desperate to find out how to get the most important things in life right and hoping that nobody figures out what frauds we actually are.

I want to love and sometimes I manage to do just that, but mostly I realize, in retrospect, that I could have done that whole love thing much better had I known what I know now. I feel like I stumble and blunder my way through life’s most important stuff.

It’s not like I go about breaking the Ten Commandments because I haven’t memorized them adequately or have never learned them in the first place. Following the obvious rules like don’t murder your obnoxious relative and don’t steal your neighbor’s riding mower is pretty easy.

No, where I struggle is on the murky judgment calls. How much free rein is enough and how much is too much? When do you walk away and when do you die in a ditch? When should you risk trusting the person who hurt you or lied to you or betrayed you, if ever? How do you embody both justice and grace in this messy, messy world?

To be honest, I need—I yearn for—someone to tell me how to live my life because I haven’t been perfect by a long shot. Well, actually, just telling me won’t be enough. I learn by watching an example and then by committing myself to an endless, imperfect repetition of what I’ve observed.

That is precisely what Jesus gives me: the example of what love looks like. He gives Image result for Father FORGIVE THEMus lots of examples. He heals the sick and feeds the hungry and parties with the down and out. But the most startling one of all was the very last one. He showed us how to love even as Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross.

He said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Sometimes we purposely wreak havoc. And the more challenging truth is that we unwittingly cause damage and leave messes for others to clean up all the time.

Deep down, that’s not what I had in mind. I wanted to leave a better world for those who come after me and to be remembered fondly for having been on this planet.

Jesus gets that about us.

And instead of tossing us aside as a bunch of screwups, He forgives.

He commits to our healing and growth. He says that our future is more important than our past.

We see in Jesus just how God responds to us. And we also see how to live with each other.

Life is about love.

And love is about being there for one another even when it’s going to hurt.

Like I said, Jesus didn’t just tell us about love. He lived it.

And that is precisely why He has such a hold on me.

Life is About Love

My friend got a call one evening from the dementia unit. His father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. His father had dressed, packed his suitcase, and was now waiting in a visitor’s lounge. The staff had tried to coax him back into his room.

Image result for old man with dementiaEach time he insisted, “They’re coming to take me home.”

When he got there, he sat and talked calmly with his dad for a while. Eventually, they walked together back to his room. After his father fell asleep, he unpacked his dad’s few belongings, thanked the staff, and drove home.

The next evening, he got another call. The dementia unit again.

This time, a nurse gave him the news that his father had died.

When he had finished telling me about his father’s death, he said, “I guess deep down he knew. He sensed that he was dying. They were coming to take him home and he wanted to be ready.”

Being ready for death is the key to living a full, rewarding, and joyful life. I don’t mean that we’re most alive when we’re bracing for our imminent demise. Instead, I’m talking about an understanding that comes with recognizing and embracing this life’s final moments.

Our earthly life will come to an end.

Our hearts will someday beat their last.

And we won’t be able to take any of our accumulated treasures with us.

For some people, this leads to the conclusion that you should eat, drink, and be merry while you can.

But Jesus offers a different message.

Life is not about accumulating things and chasing pleasure. It’s not about getting applause, exercising power, or enjoying status.

Life is about love.

And love is about giving your life away.

I am sure, Jesus enjoyed dinner parties and watching sunsets and laughing with friends just as much as the next guy. Actually, probably more than the next guy. That’s because Jesus understood how to appreciate fleeting things as fleeting things instead of staking his life on them.

Everyone we care about, everything that gives us pleasure, is a gift given to us for a season. One day, we will have to let them go. We will return these people and these things to the one who gave them to us in the first place. Ultimately, we all will give our very own lives back to the one who gave it to us.

All of life is practice for giving our lives back to God. That is the only kind of life that transcends death, and it requires that we let go.

Honestly, letting go is not especially easy for most of us. It is probably our hardest spiritual challenge. We’re more likely to consume and to accumulate, to cling and to control.

That’s why, just before his death, Jesus spent time telling his followers that God is writing an ending for all of our stories.

Jesus said that God will make all things right, heal all wounds, dry every tear, and mend every shattered heart. But you see, it’s God’s ending. Not the ending we’ve imagined or insisted upon or ran ourselves ragged trying to achieve.

And so Jesus adds:

If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24:43-44)

In other words, follow the example of love that Jesus set, even if it seems impractical and makes you look crazy. Just give it your best shot and leave the results up to God.

For example:

  • Forgive even before you get an apology.
  • Give the poor the shirt off your back.
  • Feed hungry people. Shelter the homeless.
  • Fight the impulse to punch back.
  • Love the one who hates your guts.
  • Worship. Pray. Study God’s Word.

Being ready is trying to live a Jesus-shaped life. It’s not about worrying that you could die at any moment and face the wrath of your Maker. Neither is it being so pious and morally upright that nobody dares to be vulnerable with you.

Being ready is doing our best to love God and to love our neighbor in the small things of our daily life. Trusting that God will make something good and holy and beautiful through it.

Again… life is about love.

Let’s love like our life depended on it… cause it does.