Monday, February 13, 2006

Suffering and the Narrow Path

I generally like seeing contrasts between differing thoughts and observations since holding ideas in tension aids understanding. However, a recent discussion sparked by Messy Christian has pointed to a contrast that grieves me. In fact, the idea of the disparity in her recounting of a recent thread of conversation on a chauffer driven Mercedes riding shepherd’s spouse and underpaid Malaysian Christian teachers is actually upsetting.

I have a difficult time with what is often passed off as acceptable christian living today. It is an ugly façade at best and an utter misrepresentation at worst. Moreover, such distortions are not OK. In fact, why do we – the collective body of Christ- seem eager to follow the lead of others if the trek points towards prosperity and comfort rather than suffering upon a much narrower path that aligns us with the purposes and person of Jesus? Moreover, why are we so willing to let such behavior slide amongst us as if it were of no consequence to our Savior, mission, and calling? Do we really think that life is somehow about our comfort and us? Do we actually believe it is OK to profit at the expense of those whom Christ loves? Even in “days of old” this was not OK. Do we somehow think it OK today? Somehow, do we believe the rules have changed?

"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. (Ezekiel 34: 2-6 ESV)

As one shepherd to another – a brother to others and a less seemly member in a body of more seemly members- let us be mindful of our calling. If we seek to lead we must purpose to serve and if we purpose to serve we must know that we will pour ourselves out – lose our life rather than save it- for the sake of His people and way. God forgive us when we seek to “ be served” and garner comfort instead of the partaking of the fruit of suffering amidst the joy of serving.

Another contrast comes to mind. It happened quite a long while ago on a dusty road with the twelve and with Jesus.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"

"We can," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:35-45 NIV)

May we heed the example of Christ and - although we cannot give our lives as a ransom for many - may we come to serve.

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