Sometimes I wonder and imagine what life would’ve been like if I didn’t grow up here in Australia. If my parents were different, or if they were the same, but lived somewhere else. If I wasn’t in the first world, or if I didn’t even have the same values that I currently have now. Would I still be me? And therefore, in effect, I am faced with the ever-haunting question- what makes me, well…me? Is it my surroundings, my environment, the culture of people I surround myself with, or even my parent’s influence? Or will I still be me, despite all the change I have just aforementioned?
While I know there won’t be a definite answer, what I do know is this- that even if I didn’t grow up in Australia, even if I didn’t have the same parents, even if I didn’t look like…me, I’m sure I still would’ve been living a full life for Jesus. Because at the end of the day, while we can all have the what-ifs and maybes that seem to plague us every time we hit the pillow- there’s only one thing we can be sure of, which is this: that God’s love will always keep reaching us no matter how far we stray. That even if we grew up not in a ‘Christian’ country like Australia, I’m sure we still would’ve had a million and one opportunities, either through looking at creation or just in conversations with other people, to see God’s love in action, and thus, having a chance to love and be loved without condition or condemnation. The manner in which we grow up isn’t the issue, but rather, it is what we do with the person of Jesus, and what He means to us.
We all ask the question ‘what if’- we won’t be human if we didn’t ask the question. Everyone has doubts, and wonders what would happen if what we thought was true wasn’t, or vice versa. But that doesn’t make us less of a believer in Christ if such thoughts pass our mind. Rather, it allows discussion and dialogue to take place, with other fellow Christians or even with the wider community, about issues on faith, doubt, uncertainty, Christian living, and the rest of it. Conversations as delicate as ones on faith and doubt, ought not to be with moments of discouragement or despondency, but rather with a listening ear, able to hear various sides of the discussion or debate, and to reserve judgement until all sides of the issue are laid out on the table, presented for everyone to see. We can use questions like the ones that were posed in the first paragraph as precursors into our own beliefs, sharing our own testimonies and what the Lord has done in our lives as well as the lives of others.
Our testimonies aren’t really our own. Not really. Sure they show the person the moment in which everything changed for us, as we realise that outward approval and satisfaction can’t really satisfy, that only validation from the Lord matters the most; but in a nutshell, the testimony points more to what God did rather than what we were able to receive at that moment. It is all about Him, rather than about us. Turning it all around, we are therefore reminded to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, giving us a humbling spirit and allowing us to understand that whatever we have been given was in fact the Lord’s to begin with. Our gifts, talents, opportunities and situations, everything comes from the Lord. We played no part in it. Sure that means that we don’t deserve any accolade (did we really even want the accolade anyway?), but it also means that we don’t have the pressure, to measure up, to be the best, to attain a certain standard. Because we know we can’t reach it. And it’s freeing to be rid of the pressure to reach such heights. But in our lives, indeed we do reach them, and in those moments, we realise that God was showing us how to go about these moments with dignity, respect and honour, all the while knowing that whatever we could do in our own strength is next to nothing compared to if we allow the Lord to use us in whatever way He longs.
We all have different things that the Lord has called us to accomplish and undertake throughout our lives. We all have been wired differently, and thus, have different talents, callings, purpose, whatever you want to call it. And we have to be receptive to that, and understand that we have limitations as well. Just because we can officially do anything (I guess anyone can do anything, it’s only a matter of how well we can do it), doesn’t mean that we were made to do it all. We know what we’re good at, and therefore, we know where we can make the most impact. We should be honest- what is our talent, our gift, what we want to do that we know can make the world a better place? And then go for it- no more dancing around the issue, just get up and try, even if we do fail, we can at least keep trying, knowing full well that we have used the opportunity presented to us by the Father to the full potential He has given to us.
And then we have to undertake all these things in love. And that is the hardest thing. To love like Jesus loved…that’s near impossible. Well, put it this way- sometimes the easiest things in life may not necessarily be the most fulfilling, and the hardest things often have the biggest payoffs. Living like and loving like Jesus may be difficult in the short term, but to love without condemnation is almost a freeing moment. We can rest knowing that every person we love is just like you and me, deserving of dignity and respect like the rest of us.
As I sign off, let me unveil one of my favourite passages in the bible, Romans 12. It basically unveils what it looks like to live an unashamed life for Jesus. Unbound, uninhibited, just sold out for Jesus. Hope this passage inspires you as it did for me. Til next time!
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Romans 12 (The Message)