Do you have something to die for?

Our country has spent the past few days mourning the deaths of Aretha Frankin, The Queen of Soul, and Senator John McCain, the Maverick.

It is befitting during times of mourning that we ponder the inescapable question:

Do I have something to die for?

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This year marks the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of preacher and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although this man is most known for his dream—the one he delivered to approximately 250,000 people, the dream that continues to live as a breathing document of hope today—the speech that best captures his life and ministry was given on the night before he was slain. It was titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and in it he stated, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

In his sermon “The Drum Major Instinct,” given at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, he told hearers the way he wanted to be remembered. He wanted people to know that he tried to give his life serving others, loving others, being right about the violence of war, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the imprisoned. Living an other-centered life is why his words still resonate with us 50 years later.

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Time: The Essential Investment

I love the Gospel of John. I find it the most theologically challenging Gospel account, and I appreciate the ways it allows us to look into the intimate relationships and conversations that Jesus had with ordinary people.

John’s Gospel includes the reverent yet warm exchanges between Jesus and his relative, John the Baptist. It gives account of the high-ranking Pharisee, Nicodemus, coming to speak with Jesus at night and then being exposed to the light that truth provides. It speaks of the gentle rebuke and invitation that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well. It informs us of Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. We learn from the comforting exchanges recorded in John 11 that Mary was not the only one who sat at his feet to learn from him—Martha learned the deep theological truths too. In short, because of his commitment to fulfill his kingdom mission, Jesus took the time to “stop” and “see.”

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What Does Church Hospitality Look Like?

There is an old cereal commercial that begins by panning across a field of tall stalks of golden wheat. The viewers then see an image of a large family house and an intimate group of people running through the wheat fields to the home. Before the commercial ends, the narrator reminds us, “If you feed them, they will come.”

I have thought about this commercial many times. As I survey the Gospels, I am constantly reminded of the various ways that Jesus shared food, broke bread and simply was hospitable to those in need of compassion and companionship. This is the mark of Christianity. Indeed, this is what it looks like to make disciples of Jesus. You welcome people to a table, to be present with you and the Father. You break bread together, and you eat the Word of God.

Our suffering servant Jesus goes beyond the miraculous work of feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000, plus more of their companions. Yes, he can create something out of nothing. Yes, he can fill us until we are all satisfied. And yes, there can still be so much more left to give.

Hospitality

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I am so honored to serve as a regular contributor to Outreach Magazine. They are an invaluable resource to pastors and church leaders. You can read and subscribe at their official website.