Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hang on to yourself

Yesterday I met w/one of the leaders from the Wayne State "chapter" of Campus Crusades (Cru for short). Bryn is an awesome girl and though we've only hung out a couple of times, I've walked away on both occasions feeling inspired and excited about the work God is doing through His Church.

Yesterday's conversation centered mostly on what it means to "be yourself" and follow Jesus at the same time. We Christians talk a lot about the importance of denying ourselves, of self-sacrifice, etc, etc. But I think we've gotten a wrong idea of what that means.

Yes, we should be people of service and sacrifice, but so many Christians I know have - in the name of sacrifice - turned away from things that bring them joy and excitement. Mind you I'm not talking about sinful or self-destructive things, I'm talking about good, healthy enjoyable things.

I'll use my own life as an example.

One of my favorite things to do is go rock-climbing. I did it a lot years ago but not at all now. I also love the theatre. I used to volunteer in the local community theatre, and I had a blast. Neither of these things is currently part of my life. And why not? Because I've "sacrificed" them in the name of following Jesus. I've determined that there are better, more productive things I can do with my time and that I shouldn't "waste my time" with such trivial things as theatre production when there's a whole world out there that needs "saving".

Here's the problem though... as I've stepped away from the things that bring me joy, I've also stepped away from people who don't know Jesus. And at the same time, I spend untold hours trying to think of "creative ways" to "rub shoulders" with non-Christians. As a result, very few of my friends are non-Christians - and I don't like that.

I wonder where we've gotten the idea that "dying to self" means sacrificing the good things that not only bring us joy but that enable us to live life with people outside our little Christian bubble? If I'm honest with myself (and maybe if you're honest with yourself) it hints at pride and self-righteousness... "Look at how committed I am to following Jesus! I don't do any of the things I truly love doing anymore because all my time and energy is focused on reaching the lost."

Psalm 139 says that each one of us was knit together, by God. It's an interesting word - "knit". If you've ever watched someone knit, or if you knit, you know how deliberate it has to be if the knitter is making something specific. You have to count stitches and... well... other stuff that I don't know how to explain because I'm not a knitter, but I've seen it done.

We were knit together - put together deliberately. And not just our physical being, but our spiritual being as well; our personalities, joys, passions, interests... all of that was done on purpose.

So maybe God's given me a love for rock climbing and the theatre because there are people living in those worlds whom He wants to reach out to through me. And maybe, by self-righteously "denying myself", I'm hindering His ability to work through me because I'm not available to the people groups He created me to be available for.

Maybe we make the Great Commission more complicated than it really is. It's hard, don't get me wrong, but maybe - rather than being hard and complicated - it's hard and simple. We're called to make disciples of all nations... that's hard. But maybe we're called to do it w/in the context of the "nations" to which we have a natural affinity.

That would be pretty simple. For me, it would mean making disciples of "nations" of rock climbers, theatre enthusiasts, and at-risk teenagers; because those are the nations for which I seem to have a God-given interest and passion. I wouldn't have to contemplate where to go or what to do to build friendships with people who don't have a relationship with Jesus. I would naturally find myself in relationship with all kinds of people, which - no offense to fellow Christians - would also make life much more interesting and probably unpredictable.

So here is my charge to my fellow Christians - know that you have the freedom to be yourself. Hobbies and interests in things outside of "church stuff" are (provided they're not destructive) good, and God-given. They're meant to be used for His glory and for the benefit of those who don't yet know Him. So let Him use them. Let Him use you w/in the context of your interests and passions, to reach a lost and dying world. Let's make the Great Commission simple again.

To quote David Bowie ('cause... why wouldn't I...)
C'mon, c'mon, we've really got a good thing going
Well c'mon, c'mon.
If you think we're gonna make it, you better hang on to yourself

and now... if you'll excuse me... I'm going to watch some college football. :)


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