Monday, January 2, 2017

A Few Front Porches

Last week, I said that I don't even watch much of the news any more - there's just so much going on in the world that has nothing at all to do with my actual life. That may sound a bit self-centered, or perhaps even selfish, but I don't think it is.

This tip-of-our-fingers, all-around-the-world tragedy report that we are daily bombarded by does nothing more than to distract us from the real life, the real world, the real community that God has given to us. As our world grows larger through informational media, it also grows smaller, and so do we, until we are lost in a sea of humanity that somehow no longer includes our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors.

It's not that I'm not heartbroken by the things that are going on in our world; I am. It's not that I want to turn a blind eye to real human crises like what is going on in Syria and the Sudan; I don't. But I have to be honest and tell you - God hasn't given me a heart for Syria and Sudan, at least not at this particular season in my life. And when I try to stretch my heart that far, it becomes so thin that it can no longer hold the stories of the community that God has given me.

Bold words from a Christian, I think, particularly in a time when we are so connected to one another that we think our faith ought to be able to solve all the world's problems, that we ought to be engaged in every corner, that we should not look away for one second from the tragedy, lest it overwhelm what is good and pure in the world or something. But I say again - God hasn't given me Syria or Sudan. And you know what? I'm not apologizing for that.

I'm not apologizing for God not giving me the world because God didn't even give Jesus the world. At least, not in the way that we conceive of it any more. There's this passage in the Gospel where Jesus is praying with His disciples, and they hear Him, and His prayer is not for the world. It is not for the entire sea of humanity. It is not for all those who ever were, who are, and who were to come. No, Jesus prays "for those you have given me." 

Take a minute and think about that. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and yet, His prayer is so intimately specific. He does not pray for the world, but for those who have been given to Him. 

And in all His ministry, despite the ever-expanding areal coverage of human civilization, Jesus does not go beyond this one little region into which He was placed. He doesn't go to Asia. He doesn't go to Rome. He doesn't go to Spain. These were concerns on Paul's heart, but Jesus doesn't go there, and He doesn't apologize for it. (Nor does He say, we must note, that whatever's going on there is of no importance to Him; it's just not His. Not for this journey.)

This is an area for me that cannot be ignored. So many of us are trying to stretch our reaches to the far corners of the world, and we have forgotten how to walk across the street. We send money to missionaries because that's what we're supposed to do, I guess, for furthering the Gospel, but we don't live in love in our own communities. The world's problems seem so big, so pressing, so attention-grabbing that we no longer notice the tears in our friend's eyes, the hardship on our neighbor's hearts, the struggle in our community's core. We have made our worlds so large that we have lost them, and if we want to be a truly missional people of Jesus, then we have to start to understand once more that our work does not begin in the indigenous tribes of some remote locale we could never find on a map, but on the indigenous lives where our maps begin, that place where our GPS picks up where we last left off. Right here, with the people God has given us.

It's great to have a heart for the world. I'm not dismissing that. But it's better still to have a heart for Jesus. And when you have a heart for Jesus, you come to understand that the world isn't yours; it wasn't made for you, and it wasn't given to you. You weren't given all the headlines; you were given just a few home fronts. A few front porches. 

So if this big ol' world we live in seems overwhelming to you, if you get lost in all the big stuff that's going on in this broken place, start small. Figure out where your heart is. Figure out where God has put you, and why. Figure out who your people are, the ones that God has given you, and start there. Walk across the street. 

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