Believe it or not, I actually cut my message short this morning. At both morning services, I was a little long-winded and had to trim some things while I spoke. Even though I probably could have continued sharing at the 10am service and held us only an additional 3-5 minutes, I felt like I should just skip around this story. One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. His book, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligous Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, is one I highly recommend to anyone asking me for a list of good reads.
In his chapter on belief, Miller shares the following on pages 109-112:
What people believe is important. What people believe is more important than how they look, what their skills are, or their degree of passion. Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn’t going to lead anybody anywhere.
My friend Andrew the Protester believes things. Andrew goes to protests where he gets pepper-sprayed, and he does it because he believes in being a voice of change. My Republican friends get frustrated when I paint Andrew as a hero, but I like Andrew because he actually believes things that cost him something. Even if I disagree with Andrew, I love that he is willing to sacrifice for what he believes. And I love that his beliefs are about social causes.
Andrew says it is not enough to be politically active. He says legislation will never save the world. On Saturday mornings Andrew feeds the homeless. He sets us a makeshift kitchen on a sidewalk and makes breakfast for people who live on the street. He serves coffee and sits with his homeless friends and talks and laughs, and if they want to pray he will pray with them. He’s a flaming liberal, really. The thing about it is, though, Andrew believes this is what Jesus wants him to do. Andrew does not believe in empty passion.
All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers. Andrew doesn’t cloak his altruism within a trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor. He actually believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, He means you should do this directly.
Andrew is the one who taught me that what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.
I used to say that I believe it was important to tell people about Jesus, but I never did. Andrew very kindly explained that if I do not introduce people to Jesus, then I don’t believe Jesus is an important person. It doesn’t matter what I say. Andrew said I should not live like a politician, but like a Christian. Like I said, Andrew is a simple thinker…
…If Andrew the Protester is right, if I live what I believe, then I don’t believe very many noble things. My life testifies that the first thing I believe is that I am the most important person in the world. My life testifies to this because I care more about my food and shelter and happiness than about anybody else.
I am learning to believe better things. I am learning to believe that other people exist, that fashion is not truth; rather, Jesus is the most important figure in history, and the gospel is the most powerful force in the universe. I am learning not to be passionate about empty things, but to cultivate passion for justice, grace, truth, and communicate the idea that Jesus likes people and even loves them.
When I read all of this, I was reminded about the call on our lives to “do good, every opportunity we have, to all people.” I was reminded of how easy it is to buy into what the world tells us is important and to forget the things that Jesus tells us. I am reminded that, when we let Jesus take the lead, we will be more inclined to remember the things Jesus calls us to (caring for those in need, sharing His love with the world around us, etc). When we remember these things, we will be more inclined to put them into practice.
It’s all about learning and putting what we learn into practice. If we aren’t doing the things Jesus talks about, have we really learned any thing at all?