I just returned from a week’s vacation; today is my first day back in the office. I realized it was also a newsletter deadline day and I wondered what I should talk about in this column. To get my thoughts started I turned to Oswald Chambers, as I often do, to see what words of wisdom he might offer for this particular day. He meditates on this passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians and challenges us with this: “The initiative of the saint is not toward self-realization, but towards knowing Jesus Christ. The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard, or thinks of his life as secular and sacred; he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Chambers seems to lean toward thinking that all of life is orchestrated by God, leading us from circumstance to circumstance in an effort to constantly teach us a lesson. I rather believe that God watches as we go through the various circumstances of life and that God then leads us through the mess we find ourselves in and/or the messes we make for ourselves. For me, that is a little less “pre-destined” and a little more free-will oriented. However, the real point is that what Paul is talking about is learning to know Jesus in everyone and everything. No matter how you view God’s role in everyday living, the purpose is the same – knowing Jesus and pointing others toward him.
This past weekend I had the honor of officiating at my niece’s wedding in Kansas City. It is worth noticing something pretty common about weddings. These events attract a wide variety of people from differing backgrounds, with various beliefs. Friends and family of the bride and groom are not, generally, homogenous people. As I watched the guests during the ceremony and the reception, I wondered if they were able to see Jesus in this particular circumstance. It was my responsibility as the minister to invite Jesus to be present and to point people toward him.
The wedding was not conducted in a church; we were at a secular venue where ceremony and reception would take place in the same space. The groom was not raised with any faith and is not a believer as of yet. The guests included Christians, Jews, many “nones” – unaffiliated believers, and many non-believers. It was, for the most part, a secular affair – except for me. So, it had to be my job to invite Jesus to be present with us and to touch as many hearts as he could. It was daunting. I did my best to respect the diversity of the crowd, while remaining true to my responsibility to include Jesus on the guest list. (During the homily I even managed to invite Adam and Eve.) I cannot know what seeds may have been planted, nor can I know if they will sprout. That is, after all, God’s expertise, not mine.
I think that most of us find ourselves in similar contexts more often than we realize. More and more we all spend time with people of other faiths or no faith at all. We have many opportunities to invite Jesus to join us at these encounters, but I fear we often shy away from asking Jesus to join us wherever we go. Understand that I am not suggesting that you should wear a “Jesus Loves Me” t-shirt everywhere you go or ask everybody if they have been saved. That is not the approach Paul advocates either. Paul suggests that we must get to know Jesus as he is visible in everyone and everything. We should then behave in a way that recognizes Jesus in all circumstances and treats others as images of God.
Trying to know Him better,