I was saved at age 13.  At certain times my faith was especially lame, but by all calculations, I have been a Christian for 27 years.   Amongst others, one of the principles I have lived by is that I am saved by Grace.  There is nothing that I have done or can do that will save me or anyone else except belief in Christ as my Savior and accepting that He died on the cross and rose again as payment for my sins.

My interpretation has always been that no matter how good I am, it is not my good works that are the most important, but my belief in Christ.

This is true.  It is true that you really only need to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and admit that he died on the cross for you sins in order to go to Heaven.  Yes, that is true, and it is probably the first step for a non-believer.

But, as a long time believer and someone that is truly seeking to further God’s kingdom on this earth, I think I have once again missed the boat slightly (ok, maybe not slightly but by a long shot).  While deeds are not the path to Heaven, deeds are how people recognize us as Christians.

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

Let people see your good deeds so that they can see the Holy Spirit, God, Jesus, and true Christianity at work in the world.

My interpretation, however, has kind of always been: be a good person.  Have good intentions and mainly don’t do the things that God said not to do.  Believe me, I have screwed this up a number of times, but I would guess that most people would, at this time in my life, consider me a “good” person.  I go to church, I genuinely love people and am kind to those I encounter on a daily basis, I talk to old people in the check-out line, I give to a number of charities, and I try to help people when asked, yada, yada, yada.  Generally, an acceptable person?

Well, yes and no.  I have just finished another book (have I said that I love to read? I truly do.  There are few things that are more luxurious to me than having time to sit and read a good book).    This one is by Jen Hatmaker and is called Interrupted.  I would highly recommend it for several reasons.  First, this girl is FUNNY, amazingly funny, and very real.  If you don’t believe me, Google Worst end of school year mom ever.  This will take you to a blog she wrote.  Hilarious!   Anyways, she is a great writer and I hope to be her when I grow up.

The second reason is the important reason, though.  In keeping with the spirit of this blog, this book asks you to look at what you are comfortable with, ideas you have always held, dreams you have chased, and challenges you to be different.  It is a story of her family exiting their comfort zone for the sake of the Kingdom.

The basic question of the book is can we, as believers, interrupt our busy lives to do the work of Christ.  Are we really representing Christ on a daily basis?  Are we really interested in furthering His kingdom and being like him, or are we only interested in living in our comfy, American world of luxury?  Are we being the hands and feet of Jesus?  Or are we hoping someone else will actually be the hands and feet and we will just pray for them?  Surely God doesn’t need more help.

So again, I am a pretty good person as I would say many people are.  And, it is easy to check that off my list.  But most of us live within a comfortable circle.  I spend my time operating in that circle which, for the most part, includes interacting with a lot of people who are just like me.  And while there is certainly a mission there, and an importance of representing Christ while I am around these people, I am spending a lot of time blessing the blessed; blessing others who already know Christ and/or blessing others that have virtually every basic need met in their life to excess.

Gandhi is famous for saying “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”  Why is that?

Whether I like to admit it or not, Christianity in America is not always looked upon with favorable eyes.  And for the first time in my life, I understand why.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I know A LOT of Americans are doing A LOT of good work.  I also know that as a country we give a lot to impoverished nations. I don’t know how much and honestly I don’t care because for me, this really isn’t about our government.  It is about me.  It is about what I can do each and every day to further the Kingdom of Christ.  Boom.  That’s it.

And whether I like it or not, people who are not Christians, judge me and the entire Christian community on our deeds.  We love to say that it’s our heart that really matters….Ok, that may be true.

But, newsflash, no one can see our heart!

They can only see how our heart is lived out through our deeds.  And while being nice to nice people is good, it is really not going over and above.  We are not called to just do good deeds for, or to love those that are easy to love.  In Matthew, God talks about loving our enemies.  And he basically says that even horrible people can love the lovable.  But it is me, the one who is trying to be like Christ, who should be going beyond that and loving those that are hard to love.  That is the real test.  Loving and doing good deeds for those that are in my vicinity and are easy to love and help, is really stopping short of the true calling from Christ.

If I really believe the Bible, which I do, there are some pretty specific mandates in there that I manage to keep skipping over.  Read Matthew 25:31-46 and Isaiah 58.  I won’t quote the verses in their entirety, but they basically call us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor.   He says that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him and whatever we don’t do for the least of these we don’t do for Him.

Well, I donate some clothes here and there and give some food to a food bank here and there, right?  Lame, lame, lame.  I can’t tell you how surface and shallow that feels to me right now.  Is it fine, yes, it’s fine, but is it really doing God’s work?  Is it really being the hands and feet of Jesus?  Or is it merely some lame gesture that lets me check some feel good notion off my list?

As I contemplate doing another fast, Isaiah 58 is entitled True Fasting, and today’s challenge comes from this chapter.

“Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: ….Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked to clothe him, and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood?…..  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday. “

Ouch.  With that one verse, my little “experiment” here doesn’t seem so impressive.  My 32 days without beer, really not impressive.  My 14 day fast? All these things are good and are helping me draw closer to God.   But the question, the real question is; what am I doing every day for the least of these?  What am I DOING on a daily basis that allows someone who needs to see Christ, see Him through my deeds?  I am good at giving my time, but ask me to sacrifice my stuff, food, or resources for someone other than my good friends, or someone that might be considered the least of these in our society.  Yeah, that doesn’t happen, at least not often enough.

So here it is.  I don’t know how it is going to happen, but it is going to happen.

I am going to give my lunch to someone in need, probably a homeless person 10 times in the next two weeks.  Yes, I realize this isn’t a lifelong commitment and that it’s probably not enough to give for just 10 days.  But it is a goal.  And once I reach that goal, I’ll set another one.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t even know where to find homeless in Columbia.  I mean I see them randomly and quickly switch to the other side of the street in the name of safety.  I see them at the top of the exit ramp and I berate them in my head for not spending that time looking for a job versus begging me, the hard working girl for money.   (Note to self: read and re-read Isaiah 58 about the pointing finger.)  Yeah, I see them occasionally, and judge them all too frequently, but actually purposely finding them, reaching out to them with an open heart, that will be a different story.

But it is going to happen, one way or another.

Jesus, through this, may I learn more deeply what it means to be your hands and feet……

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