I have been challenged a lot lately not least by Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President. More and more I am convinced living the christian life is to live a counter-cultural life. A life differing from the norms (for the most part) of the society we live in.
We do not follow the crowd but follow Jesus.
I made a friend this year, her name was Heather. She recently moved to my town. And although I have been dealing with a chronic illness, and she had suffered heart and other difficulties since birth, we found moments to meet.
Have you ever noticed how when a person suffers we are sympathetic – for a while, a week or two, and then sometimes keeping in touch gets a bit too hard. Not knowing Heather all that well I was astounded when she told me I was her only friend. The others had gradually dropped off the radar earlier in her life as she continually dealt with the limitations imposed by her illness.
I was no angel. When Heather rang my mother for a ride home from the supermarket I had the thought, “what a bother” just at dinner time. It is so easy in our ‘people should be independent’ culture to think everyone should stand on their own feet.
Heather only once contacted me and asked me specifically to meet. I am glad I said yes.
Shortly afterwards, Heather contracted pneumonia. Three weeks later she passed away at age 30.
I am not immune enough to understand why God may have called her home because I had begun to see with a bit of encouragement how she could have grown in confidence and self-worth. I hope now with God she sees her value and courage truly reflected, rather than the distorted reflection of herself she saw portrayed by others.
So there I was and here I stand, thankful her life shocked me back into realising what it means to extend grace. I do not do what I do for my own benefit, because it fits with my schedule or makes me feel like I am doing good. I do it to love the other person, period. And I try less to think I am the one able to judge whether other people need the help.
What if I had said no to Heather that day?
Our culture preaches independence, justifying our selfishness – “they need to help themselves”, “surely by now”, “all they want is a hand out”, “there are people worse off”…….
Our Lord preaches inter-dependence, “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me”, “give to everyone according to their need”, “never grow weary of doing good”, “love one another as I have loved you” ….. (just maybe one day we will need to receive)
In our hearts and in our minds and in our actions, let our lives reflect the grace of our saviour, not the judgements of our culture.