Reading a book recently by an author I respect and enjoy led me to pause and rusty wheels began to turn. Every generation has certain general characteristics in which one can be proud or, well, not so proud. Without getting bogged down in those details, my generation (20s-30s or Millennials) have one characteristic I find positive and appealing: the desire to see justice prevail and poverty thwarted. This plays out well in the church because of a definite thread throughout Scripture highlighting God’s heart for the poor and unjustly treated. Reading the book I mentioned earlier, the author spent significant time citing statistics bringing to light serious social issues in the world. He pleaded for believers to care and act.
The problem that seemed to rise from these pages as well as many others is a theme often left out of the passionate pleas to action: sharing the gospel. While it may sound old-fashioned or pushy, it is the reason we go. Jesus Christ is the reason we care.
John 4 tells a magnificent story of cultures colliding at a water well of all places. At about noon (the wrong time to be at the well) Jesus met a peculiar woman who most likely visited the well during off hours to avoid troublesome conversations. She had no idea the encounter that day would change her life, especially when she approached the well and saw a Jew sitting close by. The Jews and Samaritans had longstanding cultural issues but Jesus was about to break those at the local watering hole. The story unfolds and Jesus challenges the woman with a simple statement, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
We must not forget to carry eternal water when we dig temporal water wells in villages that need fresh drinking water. We must not forget to carry the gospel when we carry the sick to treatment. We must not forget to give the Bread of Life when we give bread for sustinence. Otherwise, we missed the point that Jesus made. He could have given her a nalgene bottle that never ran dry but essentially nothing would have changed.
It is good to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and the sick. Jesus commanded us to do these things. But our purpose is to share Him as we do them. See let us not cease in doing good and never rob the good of its platform for eternal change – through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Bowling is one of the most popular sports in America, though some struggle to label it a sport. I would conclude it is a sport because of its competitive nature, score-keeping, some athletic ability is required and it has aired on ESPN (at least ESPN2). While bowling is certainly available to the masses and requires little training to play, a definite chasm exists between casual bowlers and competitive masters. Aside from their designer wrist-guards, highly-personalized bowling balls and shoes reminding all of an era gone by, these men and women truly have talent for hurling a weighted ball at 10 unsuspecting odd-shaped targets.
I remember learning to bowl in 4th grade. Rosedell Elementary began an after-school program and I was enrolled. My grandpa was an avid bowler and my parents still had their bowling paraphernalia of a decade earlier. I thought I might have the gene. After a great deal of time and practice, I learned to hold my own but it never amounted the career I dreamed (ok, not really dreamed). However, the most important lesson I learned from a true expert was to follow-through. You could step the right steps, release the ball well, and even look great doing it, but without follow-though, the ball would likely miss most of the abused ten pins. What I believed about the ball and its trajectory mattered little without good follow-through. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a bowler. But without good follow-through, I was utterly ineffective.
James 2 begins painting a picture of follow-through. He opens the chapter with a challenge to treat everyone equally with love and a heart to serve. The church was no place for partiality. Brothers and sisters in Christ are equal no matter their upbringing, race, socio-economic status or appearance. He then follows this discussion by writing a difficult passage about Faith and Works. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17 ESV) Remember that taken in context, James isn’t discussing salvation but instead refuting ineffective and apathetic Christianity. These Christians were still lacing up their shoes, pulling out their colorful ball, and displayed their league and team colors. But they lacked follow-through.
Scripture is full of mandates to effectively follow-through your beliefs. If we say we really believe something, like Scripture, why do we not live like it? Why do I not? My kids, my neighbors, my co-workers and my friends are watching my follow-through every day. Frankly, they don’t care what I look like or if my ball curves brilliantly down the lane. They are watching to see if the pins fall. They are watching to see if I am faithful to live what I say I believe. Only then will I attract them to this amazing game. Only then will they see that it isn’t a game at all. How’s your follow-through?