Wednesday, April 16, 2014

how Holy Week shouldn't look any different from the rest of life

It’s Holy Week, that sacred time between Palm Sunday and Easter glory. I mark time thinking about the cross, the willing sacrifice, the love that motivated Jesus up the hill, the lashes he took for me, the blood spilled to wash me clean. He didn’t have to do it. Scripture indicates that he didn’t really want to do it, but he knew his mission. He knew I needed a rescue, he knew I was dead in sin from the beginning. It’s his death that makes me alive again. The joy of it is that Sunday morning found him alive again, victorious and ready to stand before God on my behalf. 

In light of Christ’s sacrifice, I asked my husband his thoughts about Holy Week, wondering if we should do anything different to mark this sacred time. He was quite for a few minutes, pondering. Then he whispered that perhaps the point is that it shouldn’t look different at all. What should look different is everything, every week, every day, every moment of this life in Christ. 

Christ’s death for me should galvanize my lazy soul to action, every single day. But there’s one little problem, it’s not always convenient to be galvanized. I like to wait before I take action. I like to think about things. And by all means, I should probably pray about the things before I do them. And there’s truth to that. But I know that I can spend far too much time thinking about the things and talking about the things, and far too little time actually doing the things. 

How often do we wait too long in life; we wait for the right timing, the right job, the right amount of kids, the right anything. In the waiting we never actually arrive anywhere. 

We’re watching Francis Chan’s Basics series with some friends. In one of the DVDs he shares an example about how we are really supposed to do what Jesus said. Not just listen and absorb it, but really live it. Chan shares a story of sorts about how he asks his daughter to clean her room. She comes back hours later and tells her dad she’s got it-she memorized his instructions: clean your room. But that’s not what she was asked to do. So he reminds her that the instructions were to clean her room. She sets off again. The next time she comes back full of excitement, she says started a small group and studied about how to clean her room, she has a system and a method and whole binder of ideas on the basics of room cleaning. She’s done all of this, but she’s hasn’t lifted a finger to actually make her room clean. 

I think all too often we do the same with Jesus, and with his words to us. We read his commands, love your neighbors, do good to all, and everything else. We talk about them, we pray about them. But, then something happens. Well, actually the problem is that nothing happens. We just read through it, and our actions don’t reflect the things that Jesus asks us to do.

My husband and I are reading through the book of James with our kids. Last night we landed on James 2, where James emphatically states that faith without works is dead. He goes on to say “you show me your faith by what you say, but I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” 

Maybe this Holy Week should look like action. Maybe this holy week should find us actually, really living out the words that Jesus said.

There’s an army chaplain who has a novel approach to reading the Gospels. He suggests we read through the words that Jesus said, and as soon as he commands us to do something  we go out and do it. We don’t keep reading. We don’t over analyze. We don’t form a focus group. We just get up and do the thing Jesus says. It’s a revolutionary way to read the gospel. I think he’s onto something.

What can we do this week to live out the simple command that Jesus gave to love our neighbor? What tangible, practical ways can we care for our literal neighbors? Not the missionaries around the world (though they certainly covet our prayers and support). Not the outreach the church across town is doing. But our physical next door neighbors. 

Can we share a meal? Can we watch some children? Can we mow a lawn? Can we simply sit and listen to their story? 

Jesus came to start something. He came to turn things on their heads. We can do the same, if we’re on the move. I don’t want to only sit and think about Jesus’ words, I want to live them. I know it’s not easy to do this; we risk persecution, misunderstanding, ridicule and more when our lives look different from those around us. But we gain so much more. We gain a partnership with Christ. We gain adventure. We gain community with other Christ followers. And most importantly, those we love like Jesus gain new life. 

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