Missing the Messiah

This message has run through my head multiple times in the past few days, and I've got to get it out, but I am genuinely afraid to do it. I may have to pray to the Lord for forgiveness later, but my frustration is overwhelming me.

Over the past seven years, the Lord has been taking me on a journey of discovery and revealing to me the pride with which I viewed my success in life, and He has pointed out to me how little I had to do with the circumstances which increased my chances for success.

Because of this, my empathy for those who struggle to claim the American Dream has grown, and I am more of a listener than a lecturer when it comes to the plight of others whose experiences are not my own. I consider these new eyes the Lord has given me to be a great gift, and they have led me to a calling that will carry me for the rest of my time on this planet.

I'm sharing this because I'm disturbed by the hostility of many of my fellow Christians toward anyone who has made a similar journey.

During the commemoration last week of the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a lot of my black and white Christian brothers and sisters, gentle and loving people, came together to pour out their hearts which, while buoyed by the progress we've made, are pierced by the work that's yet to be done to make us one in Christ. It's been moving for me to read and hear their words.

These Christians who love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, however, are being excoriated by others who claim their compassion for the hurting and marginalized of our world is a perversion of the Gospel, and that they are somehow trying to remake the world without the help of God.

Well, I say enough!

Unless you have walked with them and know the burden that God has placed on their hearts, and unless you have been granted divine omniscience to peer into their souls and know their intentions, you can't possibly know what motivates them.

Matthew 28:19-20 says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." If I am teaching disciples of Christ to observe all that He has commanded us, doesn't that include His command to care for the "least of these"? Didn't Jesus say when we feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned, we are doing these things as unto Him?

Why does serving Jesus have to be an either/or proposition? Can't we preach the Gospel and do good works, too? The apostle James certainly seemed to think so:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ~ James 2:14-17

I taught a lesson in church this week on the Resurrection, and I was struck by a question the disciples asked the risen Jesus: "So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'” (Acts 1:6).

These men had walked with Jesus, saw Him perform miracles, watched Him die a horrible death and then physically rise from the dead and walk among them, proving that He is who He said He is; the Christ, the Son of the living God. He had told them repeatedly that He didn't come to restore an earthly Kingdom, yet just before He is to ascend into heaven, they are still convinced that His purpose is to restore the nation of Israel to its former glory. Somehow, they missed the message of the Messiah.

I am mindful of the fact there are messengers and messages out there that are not of the Gospel and have agendas that run counter to the cause of Christ. Just as most of us, however, extend to our inwardly-focused brothers and sisters the grace to believe them when they say they are humbling themselves before the Father, I ask that we be shown the same grace. We are not dupes who can't tell the difference between the truth of the Bible and the stench of the culture wars.

I am certain there is holiness in loving without expecting love in return, in being peacemakers rather than peacekeepers, in suffering for the sake of others, in putting aside our selfish ambition and vain conceit to esteem others over ourselves. I don't want to miss the Messiah, and I'm asking you to give your brothers and sisters credit for seeking Him as fervently as you are. The path He has laid out for me is not the same path on which He has placed you, and we are all traveling the unique paths God designed specifically for each of us, but if we all strive to be in the center of His will, these paths are guaranteed to reach the same destination.