Who Can You Call?

poor 

The great Clarence Jordan founded Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia in the age of segregation.  He dreamed of a Biblical community that was racial integrated, a common purse was shared, and the only thing that mattered was being a child of God through Jesus Christ.  Dozens of people came to work on the farm.  Some stayed their whole lives; others stayed a season.

One young family came, full of zeal for Jesus and commitment to a radical lifestyle change.  They embraced living in community, simple living, and loving deeply.

Luther said, “Our righteousness can be more dangerous than our sin.”  When we give up a lifestyle, when we sacrifice, an unholy pride can creep in to fill the vacant space in our souls.

The young father was talking with Clarence one day.  Rather humbly, he told Clarence he was learning to depend on God because he had chosen poverty.  Clarence, with the same wisdom Jesus showed the rich young ruler, challenged him.  Clarence said, “You are not poor.  You have chosen to set aside your wealth for a season.  That’s a good thing.  But you are not truly poor.  If your child were stricken with a rare disease, you would call your parents.  They would fly down immediately on their private jet.  They would take your child to finest doctors, the best hospitals.  They would spare no expense to save the life of their grandchild.  The poor have no one to call.”

It is easy to imagine the poor are lazy.  We hear stories of people fighting their way out of poverty and we imagine everyone could fight their way out, if they just tried hard enough.  Most of us, however, have never stood on the other side of the poverty divide.  We do not know what it is like to see no vision for another future.  We do not understand the power of temptations to dull reality.  Think about how hard reality can be for people who have resources.  Imagine how much harder it is for people with nothing.

It’s easy to fool ourselves.  We can believe we’ve known hard times.  I remember my uncles and aunts discussing the Great Depression.  They talked about being poor.  The truth was, they had little cash.  But they had a ranch.  They raised their own food.  They were not poor at all; they were struggling.  There’s a difference.  We’ve all struggled.  To be poor is to not just lack money; it is to lack hope.

Before you judge the poor, remember you do not understand.  Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  Then remember Jesus also said, “Whoever does for the least of these my brothers, does for me.”  Jesus looked at the rich and the poor, and he said, “The poor are my people.”  To truly serve Jesus is to love and serve the poor, and to do it without condemnation.

As Jesus does, he leaves us with an uncomfortable choice: Do you want to feel superior? Do you want to be able to call someone when trouble comes? Or do you want to be where Jesus is?

Seven Lies We Tell Ourselves

lies

I lie to myself; so do you.  We try to create our own fake news to keep real reality at arm’s length.

Lies we tell ourselves:

  1. “I’m not that bad.” Compared to whom?  Maybe I’m not that bad compared to the drunk driver who kills someone; compare me to perfection – Jesus – and I don’t even make the chart.  Believing the lie that “I’m not that bad” means I’m constantly measuring to see how my morality stacks up with everyone else.
  2. “I don’t succumb to peer pressure.” We declare we are individualists, then get in a car a celebrity told us to buy, listen to a song that our friends think is cool, and then stop to pick up some beer we saw featured in an ad with flat-stomached guys and pretty girls who were having a good time around a campfire in the mountains.
  3. “I can stop anytime I want to.” This is the lie addicts tell themselves.  Addicts falsely equate change with willpower.  John Ortberg said, “Habit eats willpower for lunch.”  Perversely, it’s not until we admit we can’t stop that we have any hope of change.
  4. “I make my own rules.” Call the bank and tell them you made your own rules and its okay for you to skip a few payments.  Tell the doctor that you make your own rules, so the cancer won’t kill you, like it does everyone else.  Tell the trooper you make your rules about the speed limit (Tried it.  Doesn’t work).
  5. “I know how to fix this.” I hurt my wife.  I buy her flowers (or jewelry or a car or a house), because I know how to fix it. Then I’m surprised that she’s still mad.  I get mad back because my fix isn’t working.  I never stop to hear her pain, to understand her.  I’m not really trying to fix the problem; I’m trying to get her to forget the problem so I don’t feel guilty.
  6. “I can make it up to you.” Closely kin to lie number five, we tell ourselves if we say “I’m sorry” enough times, or if we go into super-servant mode, or if we just declare enough that we’ve changed, the past goes away and we get a clean start. You may be forgiven, but you can’t erase consequences of past choices.
  7. “God wouldn’t be mad at me.” A third century theologian, Lactantius, said, “He who does not get angry, does not care.”  Any parent who truly loves his or her child will be angry when that child does something that harms himself or herself.  If God is love, doesn’t it make sense that He would be angry that we harm ourselves?

What happens if you believe your own lies?  You center on yourself.  You expend tremendous energy and resources trying to keep your false version of reality intact.  If you live in the land of fake reality too long, you become a narcissist.  Your fake version of reality shuts out others.  Relationships wither and die.

There is a reason Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”  Here’s the truth – you don’t get to define reality.  You need help coping with real reality.

That’s what Jesus offers.  He offers you help.  He offers you love.  He offers you grace.  He offers to set you free from your own lies.

What truth is Jesus speaking to you right now? Are you listening to Him?  Or your own lies?