THE FIRST THREE ROWS
By Chad West
As a Christian, we can’t quite bridge the divide between sharing our faith and living it. It’s like a playwright wondering if advertising for actors to be in his play is as important as putting it on. James get a bad rap as a theological wet blanket, but this is all he was saying. Faith without works is meaningless. Not that works earn faith, but that they are a natural evidence of it. Because of God’s Spirit working in us to will and do, we will do. But what does that look like?
For some, their faith is a very personal thing. It’s about them being angry less, gossiping less, reading their bible more, or sharing their faith more. That’s all good stuff, but faith isn’t a straw through which we sip ourselves into morality. It is a non-stop fire hose that fills us to running over. In other words, love soaks us, but it also gets all over every nearby. Being around a Christian should be like sitting in the first three rows at Sea World. You should expect to get wet.
The Mysterious Answer
God’s love in us creates not only an empathy and kindness toward the needs and hurts of individuals, but a growing passion for anyone in need. The oppressed, the defenseless, the poor and the lonely. The marginalized, that can’t do anything forsociety, will generally be ignored by society. But our eyes should be locked onto them, our feet running toward them. Why? Because love is alive.
The message of the gospel—which is Jesus’ death and life for all sinners—shouldn’t be something we share out of duty. It should be the but, of course outcome to lives of love. It is the mysterious answer to our lives of hope. It is the truth that snaps the chains of our bondage to serve ourselves, so that we may serve God in serving others.
There’s so much need out there that it’s overwhelming. Who do I help? How can I possibly help one without helping them all? To bring it home: which starving child’s mouth do I feed to the neglect of another. I feel Foer’s words: “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” But instead of running away because we know we can’t possibly carry the entire weight of the world, we can stand right where we are.
We can love those we come into direct contact with. Those in the first three rows of our lives. Not only should we give to organizations or individuals who are working on those larger problems as we have the ability, our love should spread like a vine, holding those around us. We have family, friends, co-workers and total strangers we pass by daily to whom we can open our hearts. A helping hand, open ears, hearts that are willing to enter into the pain of others, and eyes willing to stay open in the midst of the uncomfortable reality of the others hurt.
It’s all, we will find, part of sharing the gospel. The literal saving message of Jesus for sinners is primary, but the loving works it produces as an example of the type of love that we’ve learned from God is unavoidable. And they will create questions that can only be answered by the gospel.