Sometimes we get into a rhythm, and we fail to see the world around us. We have our routines. We have our own lives and our own concerns. We become focused on things that are dear to us, and we forget there is an entire world all around us. Sometimes this world we encounter is much different than what we know.
Our world is just a minimal part of this larger world that we inhabit. Our world is safe. It feels comfortable. We understand it. We like to live in this smaller world that we have some control over, but if we are not careful, our world can become a prison.
Jesus never commands us to bunker down and hold our own. He does not tell us to stake out a territory and defend it. Instead, he invites us to enter the wild world that is not our own. He wants us to leave what is comfortable, safe, and understandable in order to give ourselves to a world that desperately needs a Savior.
Erecting walls that make us feel secure is not just a temptation for individuals. The congregations we belong to struggle with this same temptation. We focus much of our attention on what happens inside the walls of our church buildings, but the physical walls we have erected can easily become a barrier to following Jesus. When we are unable to see beyond the walls of our buildings, we have become imprisoned.
Jesus calls us to be active in the towns and cities to which we belong. In the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). In the verse just prior to this, he talks about the purpose of a lamp. No one hides a lamp under a basket. This contradicts the design of the lamp. It was never intended to be hidden, and yet we often hide our lights behind the walls of a building.
Jesus envisions a kingdom that is active and involved in the world. He hopes his followers will lead by serving and doing good works. It is not enough just to show up once or twice a week and do church inside the walls of a building. We must not allow the convenience of our buildings to become a permanent crutch. We must move beyond our walls.
Breaking free is not easy. After God freed Israel, they immediately wanted to exchange their freedom for chains. We tend to think of prison and slavery as repulsive, but they quickly become normal and inviting. Freedom takes courage. To enter into the unknown is an act of faith. We must trust God and rely on him for guidance. If we do not fully trust God, then we will run back to the prisons that are so familiar to us.
The key to breaking free is learning to give. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The life of Jesus was a life of giving. He gave his time. He gave his energy. He gave his life. When we cling to a lifestyle or a building, we spend most of our time and energy protecting what makes us feel safe. When we abandon our little piece of the world, we learn to trust, and we learn to give. We move from being hoarders to givers. We experience freedom and the blessedness of giving. We become like Jesus.
Although we greatly benefit from living like Jesus, we do this to glorify God. In Jesus, we experience abundant life. We learn what love is. We taste joy, and we mine the depths of God’s grace. This is all true. It is all great, but we ultimately leave the comforts of the familiar and enter the unknown in order to bring glory to God. The good works we do on the streets are to bless others and glorify God. We feed the poor, help the sick, care for orphans and widows, visit prisoners, and clothe the homeless all in the name of Jesus. The good we do does not stop with us. It points beyond us. It points to a better way of living. It points to the possibility of a better world, one where sin no longer corrupts and destroys, and where all is made right. It points to the beauty of a Creator we all long to meet.
May we glorify God in everything we do and learn to break free from the things that imprison us and commit to living lives that make this world a better place by pointing people to Jesus.
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