There is an old hymn which asks this question, “Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone?”
Three years ago I launched a mission with the intent purpose to save lives, not in the spiritual sense, but in the literal physical sense. Dead people cannot hear the gospel, can they? But a victim of a disaster who is grateful for saving their lives or the lives of their family, is fertile soil for witnessing your love and compassion to strangers and they might just want to ask what compels you to such sacrifice and action.
In this mission, I only required volunteers committed to this cause up to 2 hours each week on Sunday evenings attending training necessary for preparing the rescue missions. A few weeks into the project, we entered the season of lent, and several key volunteer leaders informed me they cannot attend, because they must instead attend church. My response was, “Hey we are talking about saving lives here!” I was blown away that someone would choose spending a couple of hours in the traditions of man doing song and liturgy, as an actual precedent over doing the work Jesus actually called us to do. Do you know the calling in John 21, where Jesus so plainly asks Peter,” how much do you love me?” Peter answers Jesus, “Yes you know I love you”, and Jesus so boldly replies, “then feed my sheep!” Then again the second time Jesus asks the question, but with more emphasis on the word “love”. Peter gives the same response. With the third time of questioning, Jesus is asking Peter “do you love me unconditionally, no matter what?”. “Do you love me without reservations or excuse Peter?” Then the answer is “FEED MY SHEEP unconditionally!”
We’ve all watched romantic comedies where there are two types of relationships that are always explored. There is always the “one” who has the most difficult time letting the “dreaded L” word” escape their lips, and the audience for the most part chastises these “cowardly sorts”. Then there are the other half who just appear to throw around the “L” word in the moment. Perhaps it’s these reluctant ones who are not so only fearful but instead have a greater understanding of the true cost of unconditional love, because it will cost them something they are not ready to give up.
Back to my mission work, many in the group said I was too demanding on them to ask them to do something more in their faith then warm a pew again and again. Others said it was wrong for me to expect others to have the same devotion and passion to saving lives. My take on their reasons was, these people do not see people in peril as I believe God does.
When we read the story of Mary and Martha, many times Mary is praised by readers of the passage for her adoration of Jesus, and Martha becomes the villain when she asks for a little help from her sister. Martha empathizes with Jesus whom she assumes will be hungry soon. I admit I am a Martha, and I believe my work is my worship. Or maybe I am just a closet work-aholic, disguising my real self. I’m also a multi-tasker who prays and sings praises while I am doing the work of the gospel because sitting in a pew just does not seem to feed me the way serving others does.
The third time Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you love me”, Peter was perplexed, as if he was saying, “Good grief Lord! Yes I love you, Are you not hearing what I’m saying Jesus?”
I believe the Holy Spirit asks us these questions, with the same intent and frequency as Jesus did with Peter, “Do you love me?” And what would our response be? “Jesus, are you not seeing what I am doing?” Perhaps Jesus sees in us all too well that our actions or lack thereof do not match with our verbal reply, “Yes Lord, I love you!”
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself. Do instead what my word says do. Go and feed my sheep!”
Don’t fool yourselves! How many believers are living the illusion we are “safe”? It reminds me of my athletic days, the many times I crossed home plate, convinced in my fullest of beliefs that I was safe, only to find out that the umpire ruled me “out”. And no matter how I put on my best Johnny Cochran, the same word’s from the O.J. Simpson trial ring true with us, “if the glove does not fit, you must acquit!” For many of us who claim we are on Christ’s winning team, the umpire may not see it that way, no matter how much we argue and make ourselves believe we are safe. To borrow another baseball analogy, we are not a baseball player if we do not pick up a bat, so the question is, are we a disciple of Jesus Christ if we do not pick up his cross?
Well, well, “Jesus paid it all right?” Of course, Christ paid the entire debt, but there is also a cost associated with that payment which requires more than a simple, “Yes, Lord I love you”. In Mark 8:34, Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
Work must also accompany our worship.
Written by Michael Walters. Michael is the founder and Principal CEO at Wings CRS Inc in Hondo, Texas.