My wife, Chelsea, works in a very nice hospital in a very nice area. Occasionally my work at the Relief Bus or the fact that we live in Elizabeth (for those of you who aren’t familiar, Elizabeth is probably not going to win any “Best City to Raise a Family” awards anytime soon) comes up and the natural question is, “why?” Why do we live where we live, doing the work that we do, on a salary that we need to raise? Well, the simple answer is because we claim to believe that a personal, Creator God is real, that God is most clearly represented by the man Jesus of Nazareth, and God’s primary strategy for reclaiming this creation from the bondage of death and sin is the Movement of Jesus through your life and mine.
Simple answer? Maybe not. Easy answer? Definitely not. I believe that this earth is not the byproduct of a random chemistry mishap millions of years ago. I think the nature of a species with some measure of morality, love, and community reflects a reality that is far bigger than cellular happenstance. I think the One responsible for this explosion of interconnected matter and energy is a personal and involved deity that goes by many names, one of which is simply, God.
I also believe that this God is most truly represented by a man called Jesus of Nazareth who lived around 2000 years ago and who’s teachings have influenced millions of people including Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and many others. This man, who is documented by 5 separate eye-witness accounts within 150 years of his birth, is said to have persuaded monotheistic, Orthodox Jews in the first century that he was God’s son, the One who most clearly demonstrates God’s heart for Creation, and that this Jesus conquered death by physically rising from the dead.
It sounds pretty crazy, but to try and say that hundreds of people were willing to get tortured and killed because of the wise teachings of a nice man just doesn’t cut it for me. It also doesn’t work for me to just deny the reality of these events outright because they are so irrational. A dead guy waking up is unbelievable; a dead guy so thoroughly tricking hundreds of Israeli men and women into thinking he’s alive that they were willing to die rather than deny his resurrection, only to spread this “lie” to thousands of other like-minded monotheists (and eventually to polytheists as well) throughout a Roman Empire hostile towards any belief system that doesn’t acknowledge Caesar as God, thus sparking a massive effort to wipe out this “cult,” only to make it spread faster…? In my humble opinion, this leaves reason even further behind than the resurrection idea.
I think Jesus actually lived, died, and then actually stood up and walked out of the tomb. This Jesus calls everyone who believes he is Lord to a new level of dedication. According to the records we have of this point in history, Jesus launched a Movement. In the book of Acts, chapter 4, it describes this Movement:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales (Acts 4:32-34 NIV)
It is this Movement that I believe is God’s strategy for setting the world right. It is this Movement that has led Chelsea and I to Elizabeth, NJ and the Relief Bus. It is this Movement that ALL followers of Jesus are called to in one way or another and many professing Christians are missing out on. I’m convinced that our “personal relationship” with Jesus is only as real as our “personal relationship” with the poor and the broken. Jesus says as much in Matthew 25. Now we can get all analytical and start to debate semantics and I will grant you that there are many kinds of poverty and brokenness. This Movement doesn’t always look the same, but it will always resemble Jesus.
So whether you work in a factory, an office, a soup kitchen, or a church building, your participation in this Movement of healing and restoration is the only hope this world has. God’s strategy for your neighborhoods? You. God’s answer to the brokenness in our families and churches? You. God’s solution for the violence and hate? You guessed it… you! So the next time you find yourself asking, “why does God allow this evil thing or that painful situation?” Hear God asking you in return, “yeah, why DO you allow that?”
Grace and Peace,