This is the prayer I journaled after a moving experience at Grace Midtown.
Lord, teach me to be a bridge-builder. Show this generation to be like Abel and stop being like Cain. Teach us to grow, build, and empower lives—not to destroy them. Send Your never ending love down to this earth in order to cast out all hate, fear, and evil. Teach us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. Break our hearts for what breaks yours, Father.
Wow. This is the only word I can use to describe how I feel about the past few weeks, and honestly the past few months. It’s scary to live in a world where mass shootings are so common that our hearts become desensitized to the disastrous aftermath of one individual’s selfish and careless decisions. So, in hopes of helping myself cope with this world, I’ve written up a few things to remind myself, and you, about the goodness of Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, we read about the mistreatment of the Lord’s Supper. During this time, each person would bring their own food and those in the same social class would sit together to eat. Paul is writing to rebuke this practice.
“So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private supper. As a result, one person remains hungry and another person gets drunk.” (v. 20-21)
In other words, there is injustice and inequality in your social structures and there is no place for that in the family of God. Instead, brothers and sisters, everyone brings what they have and no one goes hungry. None of our brothers or sisters should go unnourished. Meet their needs.
If we translate this message to our world today, Paul is referring to anyone who is oppressed. Jesus came to this earth to embrace those whom society rejected. If we are to be His hands and feet, we must do the same!
The way of Jesus is to lay down ourselves for the good of someone else. Period. There are no conditions. The only perfect person that has ever walked this earth stripped himself, and washed the feet of his followers. Shortly after, He tells us,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:17
Jesus knew His time here on earth was coming to an end, so it’s like He is screaming to His disciples, “This is important! Do not forget! Understand what I’m saying here! Write it once, twice, three times so everyone will know!”
Love each other. Period. Love. Each. Other. Let’s look at this a little more. Jesus does not say, “Love the people that look like you. Love the people that live like you. Love the people that raise their children like you. Love the people that believe what you do. Love people when it’s convenient for you.” Don’t miss the mark here, folks. Love people. Love ALL people.
If we need a little more instruction, Jesus goes deeper. “Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus is not asking us to do anything that He has not already done. He gave us the example! Make little of yourself to make greater of someone else. Strip yourself, get on your knees, and serve another person.
Strip yourself of your pride.
Strip yourself of your comfort.
Strip yourself of your judgments.
And serve the people around you.
Lower yourself in order to lift someone up, especially those that are in need.
Paul beautifully describes what love in action looks like (I know it’s a lot, but it’s worth it!):
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those to persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, will you heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21
Wow! Right?! Paul time-travelled to 2016, peered briefly into our world, and wrote this passage for us to adopt into our hearts. This is slap FULL of so much goodness and so much truth. I’m really tempted to break down every single line of that scripture, but I know many of y’all would stop reading right now. Instead, I’ll let scripture speak for itself and pray that God opens our hearts to HEAR what He is trying to tell us. From what I gather, it all boils down to this: love, serve, and trust.
Serve others above yourself.
To those who are hurting, confused, and mourning: I encourage you to press into Christ. Jesus relates to the individuals that lost their lives at the hands of violent men. He stands in unity with the suffering. He understands. He empathizes. He suffered.
I know some words on a screen will not miraculously make you feel peace. Remember, we serve the Prince of Peace. Cry out! Ask God to work in your heart until you feel the sorrow of those that are hurting. Plead that God will stir in the hearts of those that have been overcome by wickedness. Pray people would fear His wrath and act in obedience of His word. Ask Him to come down and smother you in His presence and His peace. You cannot do this alone. Remember friends, Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9).
I am sickened at the amount of family and friends I’ve seen on my newsfeed that are trying to rationalize this injustice by believing that some lives are more valued, more important, and more missed than others. If you find it difficult to mourn with those who mourn, though they are different from you, I encourage you to lay that need down at the foot of the cross. Pray that God broadens your perspective and ask God to reveal to you how He sees all people. Ask God to change how you think and feel.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
In order to love all people, we must respect them. In order to respect all people, we must understand them. In order to understand all people, we must make an effort to get to know them. In order to get to know all people, we must be willing to leave our comfort zone and follow the calling of Christ.
So, what now? For believers, we cannot give up. Don’t give into the ways of this world. Don’t hide or fear. Remember, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. How would Jesus respond? Our King is bold and He is fearless. Run into this world with open hands to surrender and open arms to embrace. Be Jesus to others. He would not cower in the comfort of His home, rather He would be on the streets healing and telling of God’s love. I encourage you to do the same. With a spirit led conviction, find your calling in all this chaos. Pray for God to show you your purpose and pray for the courage to do it. Step out of the boat!
If you’re reading this and you don’t know Jesus, I encourage you to explore that curiosity. Ask me, if you feel led! Pick up a Bible and start reading in John to know more about the Lord and Savior of this world; if that’s a little too much, start by searching for some worship music. Maybe even say a little prayer and ask God to reveal Himself to you in a way that you will receive it and ask for an open heart to hear Him when He does so. This is a life-changing message that I don’t want you to miss.
Jesus knew we would need encouragement.
“I have told you these things so that you may find peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 6:33
He has overcome the world! He lives! He’s here! And He’s ready for YOU!
If we go back to our message from Paul about the Lord’s Supper, I challenge you to think about who is sitting at your table, and what are you going to do about that?
Offer a seat at the table to everybody. Meet their needs. Love them. Everyone.
Father, I cry out to you know. Wrap your arms around the hearts of those that are hurt. Teach us to be bridge-builders. Teach us to be feet-washers. Teach us to be table-setters. Show and guide us how to be your hands and feet in this corrupt world we live in. Lift us up so we do not lose heart, but instead press into You. Give us understanding so we may love better. Challenge and inspire us to find our purpose for the kingdom. And break our hearts for what breaks yours so that we may feel the call to be a change. All in Jesus’ name.
Choose Jesus, friends.
Featured image from here.