It should be pretty clear by now that being a follower of Christ is an active process. You see, Jesus is never standing still; he is always in motion: healing, loving, turning over tables, sharing the Good News, walking on water, and performing miracles. And it was these actions, in concert, that demonstrated his love for others and for us, providing numerous examples of just how we might “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Jesus is (and has always been) God’s Word in action. That’s why his ministry kept him moving all the time. He rarely stayed in one place for very long; but when he didand while he was traveling along the wayhe was expressing his love through those actions.
It may be interesting to note that in every example Jesus ever gave us of loving others, he never told us to say “I love you” to others. His examples and teachings were always about demonstrating love through our actions.
“What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?” [The man] answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgivenas her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
1 John 4:9
But following Jesus isn’t always what we have in mind as we go about our days, is it? Whether we want to or not, we are often only vaguely aware that we are not really living the lives he has called us to live.
Because of our own unique situations (and when I say “unique situations”, I’m talking about all of the worldly distractions; the curveballs constantly being thrown at us; the drama of other’s problems that invade our own; our own wounds, pains, and trials; and the daily conflicts with our own family members as they cope with all of the above in their own lives), we find it increasingly difficult to live godly lives, or to allow God to sanctify us through the process.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
We know we should obey his teaching, but sometimes we find that we are so overwhelmed by the responsibilities and concerns of this life, that our relationship with Christ gets choked out. We just get stuck.
“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
We can get to a point where we want to follow, but we just don’t know how. We go to church, listening hopefully to God’s message, and pray for hope and peace so that we can move forward with him. But we hear no new revelation, or we don’t recognize it when it comes.
Over time, we can become filled with great sorrow and hopelessness, and we no longer believe that Jesus has what it takes to rescue us from our broken marriages, broken families, or broken dreams. Our hearts become hardened and hopeless, and we become Christian zombies, barely even aware of God’s presence, painfully unaware that we have, in our hearts, fallen behind and fallen away.
But every once in awhile, something causes us to look up, where we see Jesus walking ahead of us in the distance. He is ahead of us because he is always moving forward, leading us on the right path and on through the narrow gate.
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
But as we gauge the distance between him and us, we’re afraid that we have fallen too far behind. We begin to believe (or have long since believed) we can never be like Jesusbecause he has gotten so far out of reachand we can never catch up to him that we might walk at his side. Unlike the psalmist who writes:
“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
we feel that he isn’t even in the town, let alone at our sides.
The people in Jesus’ day had to fight to get close to him. Because he was always moving from place to place, people raced to get close to him, believing they had but one shot.
They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard [Jesus] was. And wherever he wentinto villages, towns or countrysidethey placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
Has the time come where you have forgotten that you cannot catch up to Jesus? When were you ever taught that you were made right with God through your own efforts? Was it not God himself, descending from his throne and becoming man, dying on the cross and raising himself from the grave that brought you life?
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Indeed, it is not by your strength that you were made right with God, but by the very strength of Christ himself that raised you from the grave. How, then, do you propose you will catch up to Jesus? If he is always moving, and you get stuck in the mud, how can you ever close that gap?
There was a recent film, entitled Hacksaw Ridge (I hope you’ve seen it),
“…the true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. Doss was drafted and ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery, selflessness and compassion after he risked his lifewithout firing a shotto save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa.”
taken from the Google overview
In the final act of the film, Private Doss finds himself rescuing wounded soldiers, searching each one out, lifting each man upon his shoulders, and carrying that man back to the edge of a cliff where Doss single-handedly lowers him by a rope and makeshift harness.
One by one, again and again, Doss returns to the battlefield to find another downed soldier and bring him to safety. But just before Doss sets out to find another wounded man, he cries out to God, “Lord, let me get just one more. Lord, just one more.” And remarkably, with God’s strength and Doss’ will, he indeed rescues 75 men!
Now, let’s pause to take note that, during this process, not once do we see one of these soldiers stop him and say, “No, please. Just leave me here to die.” Instead, each man was willing to let Doss take him to safety. Their pride was lost under the shadow of death. (Of course, unlike the rules for first-responders these days, Doss didn’t need to ask their permission.)
What strikes me here, is that these men were each wounded, unable to reach freedom from death on their own. None of them, on their own power, could save themselves. And so, while they were still powerless, Doss saved them. None of them knew Doss personally, and most had been unkind to him. They had all treated him as though he were a coward up to that point. But Doss held none of their sins against them. They were simply broken men in need of saving.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And so, here you are. You see Jesus, walking ahead in the distance, as you lay crippled and wounded by your own sin and the worries of this world. You see him off consorting with others who seem more worthy of his love than you do. Whether you’ve claimed to be a follower or not, in the end you discover you’re just like everyone else: broken, ashamed, and feeling alone.
But in this very moment, right now, you look up from the ground to cast your eyes once more on your beloved Jesus. You look up, expecting to see him still so very far away, only to discover that, instead, he is standing right over you, scooping his arms beneath you, and throwing you over his shoulders.
Without a word, he carries you through the battlefield, over to a quiet place where the enemy can no longer reach you. He sets you there in green pastures beside still waters. You look around and realize there are thousands of others here in this pasture too, all weeping with tears of joy in their salvation. When, at last, you look over to your Savior, who, with a wink and a nod, turns his face to the heavens, crying out in a loud, steady voice:
“Father, let me get just one more. Father, just one more.”