For Whom Christ Died

“I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:14-16, emphasis mine)

That italicized part comes back to me often. I know Paul is talking about the freedom that Christ gives us after believing in and on (and loving) Him as removed from the strict and often loveless rulekeeping that was the coin of the realm during Old Testament times. But if you take said line out of context, it’s the best reason I know for loving those you’re less-than-inclined-to-feel-affectionate towards. And by “less-than-inclined-to-feel-affectionate towards” (I’m quoting myself), I’m talking about those individuals you really despise. The ones that, without the oil of the Holy Spirit to smooth out interactions, you would utterly detest (and whom you very well may if and when you’re not in their presence). Your enemies, as it were. The people you hate-but-know-you-should-love. Those, “for whom Christ died”. Whenever I run aground of someone, not knowing how in God’s holy name I would have offended them and caused them to treat me in such a manner, I am gently reminded by the Holy Spirit that I need to love them. This is the Holy Spirit—don’t doubt. But oftentimes I think it’s me and I think, however subconsciously, that this idea of “loving our enemies” is one of those modern-day churchy catchphrases with no grounding in reality. But that’s wrong. Here’s from where this idea sprung (this is Jesus talking):

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

If you read the same passage in Matthew’s gospel (5:44) it says “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Yeah, that’s about it. The stuff that is premeditated and calculated, not just to hurt (“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Hebrews 12:4) but to steal a piece of your soul to somehow layer on top of their’s because they don’t have the patience or the guts or the heart to get it from God for themselves. That kind of offense. It’s the kind of offense that feels like it would kill you if there weren’t some kind of intervention. Obviously pray for them. Jesus tells us to come into possession of our souls with “patience” (Luke 21:19, see also Psalm 119:109) And if the hurt is worth anything, you will have no choice but to pray. There is deep stuff going on in the case of the individual who hurts you; they have most-likely been hurt themselves and when they see the Lord in you, they’re taking out their pain and frustration and poison on someone who is undeserving (hint: it isn’t about you). And before I go any further, I’m talking about our brothers and sisters in Christ, let me just get that straight. Those who hurt us who themselves aren’t believers are, it would seem, a lot easier to deal with as we go through life. I’d wager it’s because there isn’t that heart connection. But our brothers and sisters in Christ are the ones we’re closer to by our very (new) nature and as such, have, it would seem, unlimited access to our souls. And thank God for restoring our souls (see Psalm 23:3). The take-home message here is that when we get hurt, it’s not about us. It’s about the God we represent.

“Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that sweareth to His own hurt, and changeth not.” (Psalm 15:1, 4b)

See, one of the pillars of Christianity is a willingness to be hurt, to die. Jesus tells Peter on the shore to “feed my sheep”. He says it again. However, the first response He gave Peter after he answered Jesus’s probing question of “Lovest thou me?” was, “feed my lambs” (see John 21:15-17) Jesus cares so, so much for His sheep. He is “the Good Shepherd”, after all (see John 10:11-15). He cares so much that He spent Himself, He bled out for us. And it wasn’t just for us. It was for you. It was for them. It was for me. So next time you struggle with intense hatred for an individual—irregardless of how they’ve hurt you—look at them knowing that were they the only person God chose to create, He would have sent Jesus to die for them and for them alone.

Oh Darn

Seth Godin does your counterintuition know no bounds?!

I posed this question to my Facebook friends one evening. Hoping to draw out a response and start a little friendly conversation, I instead ended up hearing nothing but crickets. My hope, as I did have one, was to point out that he had said in a blog post (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/08/just-in-time-fo.html) that he wore mismatched socks as part of his daily attire (!). I thought this was brilliant, a work of true sartorial/social subversion, as it were. And so, my estimation of him and his approach to the things of life as they related to marketing (he is a marketer, after all) only increased. I had long been a wearer of the crazy sock, or two. The benefit of having something so utilitarian-yet-essential as our feet swathed in something not only hidden but also bright and colorful and above all personal diffusing into my person over a particularly vexing season of rich personal growth. So I got the crazy sock thing; candy-striped or patterned with cartoon characters of yore, flying pigs, etc. You get the idea. What I couldn’t get over, however, was the act of wearing two different socks as part of this non-statement (remember, you can’t see them if you’re wearing pants) of individuality.

I began, as a child, with solid colors, on the bold, or darker, end of the spectrum. My fashion-sense teeth were cut in preschool during which time I attended a private Montessori school in Southern California. Students adhered to a dress code which included khaki slacks and polo shirts. If it got too cold (which was rare, this was LA), you could wear a long sleeve undershirt but you always needed that collar-and-two-opaque-buttons showing. I usually left one unbuttoned—still do (though I rarely wear the polo shirt). This strict dress code, however, didn’t apply to my hosiery and as such, not much thought was given to their eminence, their importance for my daily attire. I suppose my mom purchased a bag of mixed-color socks at some department store and called it good. Let’s see, I remember burgundy and a dark turquoise/light teal, maybe black too. There were most likely a pair or two of black socks. I kept this pattern up through about third grade. We had moved to a new state and I began attending a new school, this time public: the socks stood out. It was the early nineties and while that statement may not say much about the state of the quality of the sock union, white was the sock-pattern patois. The coin of the hosiery realm, if you will. If you wore white socks, well, you wore what most of your peers wore. Of course there were the branded socks, Nike edging out Reebok and Adidas by several orders of magnitude. After a few days or weeks, the stolid, solid color sock order was just not going to cut it. As I was subconsciously looking to integrate into the fold in whatever way I could, white socks was just one of the many things I was willing to adopt in order to fit in to this new atmosphere of public school. I began to disdain the socks to which I had theretofore given no conscious thought and I became an adherent to the plain, boring white crew sock. No stripes if I had my say and socks-with-heels always took precedence over tube socks.

I carried on the white-sock tradition until my late teens when I started working at a place with a dress code. About the same as Montessori in that I could wear polo shirts but I had to wear slacks along with my dress shoes. The neutral colors to which I gravitated lasted a number of years until I began to feel that pull for more (and more) individuality. I would say that everyone goes through this at some point in their life, my vision quest holding a number of foci, one of which became my sock game. Gone were the boring grays (though I love gray as a concept) and beiges and blacks devoid of personality. I discovered the candy stripe in the sock weave and I was gone. I joined a new order. Socks were now on my radar as desirable articles of clothing, consumables to be spied out and purchased and be proud of. They only added, you understand. I was turning into a new person.

Today, my undergarment drawer (sorry, they don’t have their own drawer—at least not yet) holds only the finest in distinct sockwear. I’ll do a load of laundry and dump out the clean clothes. On days when I haven’t had time to pair up the socks (and fold up the shirts and briefs), I play this game (and remember, I have committed to only wearing matched socks regardless of whether or not I dress with the lights on). The game in question has no official name but it plays as follows: I proceed to pull a sock from the pile and continue pulling until I find the first match. I might go through half-a-dozen different socks before I find the day’s pair and while I don’t always do it, it provides a satisfying complement to the beginning of my day. Understand that there are more obscure, complicated equations that I employ on days when I really get serious about what socks to wear. All this aside, know that deliberate thought goes into each day’s sock choice and I peel them off at the end of the day with the same respect.

In closing, I leave Godin’s sock proclivities to him alone (and the toe-socks—like gloves for your feet—to those inclined to wear them) and appreciate what fellow hosiery connoisseur I have in him.

There are a number of things I’d recommend that would radically change, alter one’s life should they feel stagnant and in need of a course correction. But if you want a simple fix, one that won’t break the bank but will yield a positive (and interesting) return, start wearing some crazy socks. And whether or not any one responds to your choice, you’ll know.

Doing the Work

Drawing out the sword

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29, emphasis mine)

I find that when an individual—in this case myself—has a far-reaching goal, something that I’ve striven for and bled, sweat, and cried for, action must be taken. Jesus, above in the sixth chapter of John talks about the simplest, least-common denominator for doing the work of God. It’s so easy to go through this life doing things, accomplishing tasks and even tearing down long-held paradigms of wrongness, replacing such with the right standard, the correct way of doing and/or looking at a concern—whatever it may be. But! And I don’t mean to set myself up as some holier-than-thou individual with a vantage point granted only to Christ Himself, but if the person doing all of this busywork (for lack of a better term) doesn’t start with belief—that thing to which Christ points in the heading verse—then that’s all the aforementioned activity ends up amounting to: busywork. Jesus seems to bookend the statement about belief-as-work with this, uh, averment (thank you, Thesaurus) in John 17 (verse 4):

“I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”

Later on in the nineteenth chapter (verse 30), Jesus drives the point home while on the cross with “It is finished”. It’s almost as if in the former chapter, chapter 17 (One of my favorite in all of the Bible), He declares to His father the finality to (and truth of) what He had been doing and then in chapter nineteen He gets to announce it to the world as He’s dying. I love how we as humans, citizens, denizens, get this window on what Jesus was doing while He was here in this world. A window, colored, of course, by Pastors and parents and participants in this grand story of God as we grow up and move through life. But we have to figure it out for ourselves (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12b), so to speak. It starts with belief.

Squaring the circle

“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:37-38)

I love that. What did Jesus do with His life? He “went about doing good”. As we endeavor to follow Christ for ourselves (to “walk, even as He walked.” 1 John 2:6b) what does that look like for us? A person doesn’t have to be an outgoing, type-A personality. One doesn’t need to nurse a Messiah complex (don’t worry about that) and they don’t have to put their hand to the forehead of random strangers, casting out demons in the name Jesus drawing all sorts of weird attention to themselves in the process (unless you’re directed by and moved upon at the leading of the Holy Spirit—you’ll know it though). Those character traits and personality types and incidents don’t necessarily point to the reality of Revival or of “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10). Believe. Pray. Take your perceptions to God and do your best to love others in whatever way is comfortable for you. And I don’t meant the whole (step out of your) “comfort zone” thing. Walk in your body and tear down the old models of apathy and alienation and indifference at work in the world. This is hard work.