Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taking Care of God's Stuff

I would die for my children…no question. If it came down to me or them, I’m hanging up my life lines. Maybe it’s because they came out of my own body, but my love for them is truly unconditional.

So why are adult relationships so darn difficult? Why do the hurts that come at the hands of siblings, parents, spouses or friends override the unconditional love meter? Why do we think and act in ways that hurt others?

I’m reminded of the one simple call of the Christian faith…love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.

In other words, love as Christ loves.

In theory this sounds so warm and fuzzy and wonderful. But you must picture a human man, around the age of 32, beaten and whipped to an unrecognizable pulp, forced to carry a cross, stripped almost naked, nailed on that cross, stabbed, spit on, cursed and left to die. Abandoned by even his closest friends on this earth and even feeling abandoned by God, he demonstrates in agonizing finality how Christians are to love in spite of humiliation, hatred, tragedy and betrayal.

Max Lucado shares the story of a woman who cares for her dying father despite enduring years of his sexual abuse. Her father never did apologize or acknowledge her pain, but she was by his side at the end and she realized that he was in a prison of his own making…and by forgiving him, she was free of that prison.

Society demands justice. Jesus demands love…no excuses.

When I was confirmed at 16, it is painful to realize now that I still wasn’t a Christian and wouldn’t be for many years. I had learned all the laws and rules, but didn’t understand the commitment I was really making or the personal relationship I needed to have. It wasn’t about choosing Jesus only when it suited me. It wasn’t about sitting in a church pew. It certainly wasn’t about good deeds or being “nice.” It wasn’t even about belief in God. All of that was a wonderful start, but it wasn’t even close to what was expected of me. And my life completely reflected my level of commitment and my level of love.

To follow Christ is to literally lay down your life…give it all to Him. It is no longer your own life…to pick and choose how and when you will love or even how you will live. It’s not YOUR money or YOUR talent or YOUR family or YOUR body. You and your stuff are owned by God. And if you treat God’s things as precious gifts, they will remain precious gifts. You won’t waste, abuse or neglect them. You are simply the caretaker. Will God’s gifts grow and prosper or will they wither?

"Love your neighbor” means ALL THE TIME. Because your neighbor is also God's stuff. Are you taking care of your neighbor or are you abusing, neglecting and blaming?

It’s easy to love people who love us in return. But the true life of a Christian is to love our neighbors so much that we put them and their well being and happiness before our own. We are called to give until it kills us, forgive and ask forgiveness, pray for others, ask for strength to do His will, and work behind the scenes without expectation of thanks. Because that's what Jesus did. No excuses.

A good Christian friend of mine once gave some inspired words that stick with me to this day. My life had gone about as bad as it could go and she didn’t sympathize. Being the friend she was, she simply said this:

“Suck it up, sugar.”

Suck it up. Turn around. Take care of God's stuff. It’s not too late.

Romans 6
John 13:35