"Could it be that our passivity to the needs around us does not really grow out of a commitment to prioritize what God has commanded us to do, but is really a neglect of how he has commanded us to live? It is the difference between focusing on specific behaviors as opposed to a particular kind of lifestyle."Without a doubt,these words were some of the most convicting and challenging I read all summer - even all year. I have mulled them over in my mind time and time again, and asked myself repeatedly what they mean.
- Paul Tripp (source)
Convicting because I know that I often neglect the people in my life who need me most, especially if they are outside of my home. I'm quick to do anything I can for my husband and my daughter, but I don't like the inconvenience of helping others. I rationalize my absence by citing time, distance, or financial constraints. In truth, I'm offering pitiful excuses and hoping they'll be accepted graciously. If Tripp is right, it's not my lack of prioritizing that's the issue. Instead, it's disobedience. Ouch.
Challenging because while disobedience may be the root, the time, distance, and financial constraints are very real. They don't disappear merely because I wish they didn't exist. I can't always drop my job or my family to attend a friend in need. I can't serve on church committees that meet every week when I live 45 minutes away. I can't disregard the electric bill because a family needs groceries.
The key, I think, is Tripp's last sentence. I tend to focus on the behaviors or the things I'm doing. But God isn't keeping score. There are no extra points for going, doing, or giving. Instead he calls me to be a good steward of my family, time, and money. Sometimes that means I stay put and keep my checkbook in my purse. There's no shame in that. However, there are times when sacrifice is required. Loving my neighbor demands that I be willing to offer my comfort for theirs. The lifestyle Tripp speaks of begins with a heart willing to serve, and we gain that by remembering Christ's sacrifice and his willingness to serve us.
Appreciating what God has done for us in Christ changes how we see our service. Martin Luther writes, "Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbor voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss." (source)For more on servanthood, I highly recommend Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church by Nate Palmer.