At University Ministries this year we have been talking about how to move beyond belief to actually becoming “followers” of Jesus Christ. Our methodology for this movement has been quite simple, for if you want to actually follow in someone else’s footsteps all you really need to know is the who, what, why when, where and how of their life. And so this year this is what we have done, we have taken a deeper look at Jesus’ life and encouraged the willing to do likewise.
As we now enter into our last month of chapel services for the year I have wanted our community to take one final glance at some of the practical aspects of how Jesus continually walked out his convictions. And so last week, seeking input from our students as to which areas of following they felt they continued to need a nudge, I asked the simple question, “What area(s) of your life still look dissimilar to Jesus and what skills do you lack that we might equip you with during our last few chapel services?”
Without a pause several of the students responded, “We want to learn how to love people.” To which I said in all candor and in a pastoral voice, “That’s crap. We have taught you how to love people all year in almost every service. Here’s the short list. Extend a hand to people. Heal people. Offer hope to people. Forgive people. Offer people Living Water. Show up. Risk your reputation to restore someone else’s life. Don’t call people names, and only name them what God wants them to be called. Be humble. Let go of your preferences for particular people. Listen to one another. Use your influence for someone who has none. Wash feet. Love your neighbor as yourself. And let God distract you for His mission.” And in a final bit of pastoral frustration I concluded with, “You don’t even need to go to college to learn these skills.”
As you can imagine my pastoral utterance was followed by a bit of silence. And then one student said quite profoundly, “I guess it isn’t a skill we need to learn, it’s a heart we need to have.” Which led to a much more profound conversation among us, for in truth we all have the skill-set to love people, what we don’t possess is the heart-set.
This I believe is the crux of the issue and the core of our conundrum as a community of God’s people. Let me offer a really simple illustration that makes this quandary clear. The snow has now melted and to anyone with eyes to see it has become abundantly clear exactly what we have thrown away during the winter months. There is evidence on lawns, in gutters and behind every bush of the items we have felt were not valuable enough to pick up or were not ours to deal with. Now, I am certain that we all possess the skills to bend over and pick up what has been thrown upon the ground. And yet today, most of us will walk past what has been left behind.
And what will we tell ourselves when we step over something that obviously shouldn’t remain in the gutter? “I didn’t put it there," “I don’t want to get my hands dirty,” “It’s too big a problem for me to make a difference,” and “It’s someone else’s job.” And once again it becomes abundantly clear that it is not for lack of skills that our world looks the way it does, it is due to an indifference in our souls. And so I invite you to consider not, “What skills do I need to care for the world?” but rather, “Am I open to God changing my heart for the world today?”