Part I: Discovering Where We Live
Chapter 1: Our Address
Read the Gospels more…that is the final word professor and scholar, N.T. Wright would leave to his children.
Reading the Gospels more has the powerful effect of changing the hearts of people because in reading the Gospels, we see Jesus, we physically and miraculously see the God-Man Jesus interacting in a period of history, engaging the culture of his time, and talking with, teaching, praying for, miraculously healing real people…and they were all changed.
Let us meditate more on the Gospels. The Gospels is what changed Mark Labberton’s heart at a tumultuous time in American history. He writes:
I grappled my way through the Gospels again and again. I couldn’t prove to anyone, including myself, that the gospel was true, but I did come to believe that if it were true, it was more important that I learn to follow Jesus than that I do anything else, that to follow Jesus meant not withdrawing but going further into the lives and circumstances of the world around me…What I could see was that to follow Jesus meant living as a servant of God’s love (pg. 36).
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Dr. Labberton meditated in Jesus’ prayer as recorded in John 17. I have heard it said that this is the real “Lord’s Prayer.” In it, Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and finally closes by praying for all believers. While praying for his disciples, Jesus said:
I am coming to you [my Father] now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they [the disciples] may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world by that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (John 17:13:19 [NIV]).
In this short excerpt, Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for his disciples to live as sanctified people—those who are set a part for a sacred purpose—while living in this world. If this were not possible, he would not have prayed it. At least part of that sanctification, as evident from this passage, comes from knowing the truth and remaining in his word. He prays for the disciples to have joy even though the world hates them. And he sends them out into the world under the Father’s protection from the evil one. And he sends them out as his servants.
As Christians, God has called us to go into the world. We go into the world with the understanding that:
- You and I see on “This Side of Things:” “Where we live shapes how we live (pg. 38).”
- “That Side of Things:” reflects people, circumstances and experiences that are unlike my own. We need to open our eyes and “see” the experiences of others in their context and not from the perspective of where we live.
- Then make the personal commitment to change the perspective that on “this side of things. Its’ all good,” and on “that side of things. It is what it is (pg. 44).”
We can confess that we often respond like rubbernecks to those on “that side of things.”
We can peek out and see and feel for others beyond this side of things, maybe even catching a glimpse of that other side. But we are like rubberneckers on the freeways.—maybe we look, but then the momentum picks back up and we get on with where we were headed. We may not even remember we ever slowed down or saw anything that should keep us from the mall. And rubberneckers never help. They just slow things down and annoy everyone. The pressure is on: just keep moving (pg. 46).
I decided to discuss this book because I want to live above the pressure and I want to challenge you to do the same. I don’t want to just keep moving…not after attending The Justice Conference in February; not after watching the Half the Sky documentary; not after interviewing brave Christian men and women who are entering the world and fighting for justice every day; not after lobbying congress with the International Justice Mission; not after hearing the statistics of men, women, and children confined to lives of modern day slavery…or being aware of the African American boys on the prison pipeline… or knowing that too many disadvantaged children are failing and dropping out of our public school systems. I don’t want to move on, not after the Trayvon Verdict, not after watching Fruitvale Station. I just can’t rubberneck and keep moving.
Jesus was not a rubberneck kind of man. And with his intercession and help, we can all be more compassionate, intentional, and active people against these systems of injustices. We can read the Gospels. We can look to the cross. We can look to Jesus and understand the price he paid and what our salvation cost. Only then can you consider in the proper perspective: What does empathy cost you? How do you feel about that price (pg. 46)?
If you want to know who God is, Look at Jesus. If you want to know what is means to be human, Look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, Look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, Look at Jesus. And go on looking until you are not just a spectator, but you are actually part of the drama which has him at the central character. – N.T. Wright
Let us look to Jesus and know God, be human, love well, grieve often, and act. We must keep on looking…Keep on looking.
I Desire Change, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013
Catch Up on the Discussion:
Introduction: Dangerous Act and a Heart Like the Grinch