Recently one of my neighbors called and said, “I need to ask you a favor…” Immediately my mind took inventory of my schedule for the next few days- do I have any time to help? Next my thoughts skipped to my bank account- do we have any margin to help? Before my friend’s request was even out of her mouth I was mounting my defense of reasons I could not help her.
Last month I preached a sermon about God’s invitation to participate in the healing of the world. I believe that God is restoring and healing the world and that he has invited us to participate in his restoration. This invitation is compelling to me. And yet as I prepared the sermon and as I answered my neighbor’s call, I was aware of resistances in me.
My own heart and mind resist with questions and excuses when I want them to joyfully obey the command to love my neighbor as myself.
These are the resistances within I’m battling as I seek to obey Jesus’ call to love others, live generously, practice peace, and offer hospitality:
• How much can I help and still be considered a Christian?
• Since this doesn’t affect me or my family isn’t it best if we just stay out of it?
• I’m afraid that if I say “Yes” to God’s invitation to join him in restoring work, he’ll ask me to do the one thing I don’t want to do.
• This might not be safe.
• If I help others then I won’t have enough for myself or my family.
The core of these resistances questions the way of Jesus: Is he good and is he trustworthy? Will a self-giving way of life truly lead to abundant life?
Scripture gives clear responses to these questions and resistances. Jesus told us “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35). He did not ask us to live a safe life or give a little bit to his cause. He has invited us to be all in with our whole lives AND he promises that that kind of living is where we truly find our lives.
There is a principle of the Christian faith, the paschal mystery, that out of death comes life. In Christ’s death, he overcame death and brought life both in his own resurrection and for us. When a seed is put in the ground it dies, cracks open, and springs forth new life. We see this over and over again in nature. And this mystery is the answer to all of the resistance.
If I intend to participate in the healing of the world, it requires me laying my life down over and over again. Yes, this requires my whole life. Yes, I will have to die to myself and my agendas to see the pain of the world around me. Yes, God has equipped me for works he intends for me to join him in, not out of force or obligation, but in response to his invitation to abundant life. Yes, it may be risky. He said that in order to follow Him we would have to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. And he has promised to send us The Comforter. He has given us authority, even over death. Yes, helping others will require letting go of my resources. When my hands are wide open from pouring out, then they are also open to receive more from the Lord. God is a good father and he knows what we need before we ask.
Saying “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation will be risky and costly and it will lead us to healing, not just for ourselves, but for the world.
This article was written by our friend, Christine Nolf. She has partnered with her neighbors and local churches to improve their neighborhood in Costa Mesa over the last 15 years. She writes about those experiences and other thoughts on theology and neighboring on her blog- A View from the Mesa (www.christinenolf.com). She and her husband and son are part of the Redemption Church community in Costa Mesa. If you get a chance- check out her blog and follow along for more.