In preparation for my trip to Nepal, I have delved headlong into Hindu cultural studies and various books on missional lifestyle. I have read through the book of Acts. I followed along with the Mars Hill community through the book of Philippians, led by Rob Bell and others, via podcast. I have taken every possible measure to devour every piece of literature I can get a hold of. I am engaging in a personal study of Nepal's national language, Nepali. I have met on a consistent basis with my to mentors/advisers/friends/colaborers to discuss and plan what this trip should look like. I have enlisted the help of my church family to grasp and accomplish that which I am bound to overlook. I have taken every opportunity to use the resources at my fingertips to accomplish a successful mission trip to the country of Nepal.
But then it hit me.
Slowly at first. Subtle. Soft. Harmless. The notion that this trip is in someway larger than myself. Bizarre. As days passed, I would read or hear things that disturbed me to my core.
"Whatever you do to the least of these, you have also done to Me."
"Be of one mind and of one spirit."
"As Christ loved the church, so to shall you love one another"
"He wrapped a towel around His waist and began to wash the disciples feet."
Familiar words, to say the least. But something was different. Something didn't sit well. My soul groaned. It slowly started to make sense, what it was that I was getting myself into. I began to read stories of the church in Asia. Their struggles, their pain. My soul ached.I read of disease, rape, and genocide in Africa. My soul weeped. I recalled the broken and shattered lives I came into daily contact with on the city buses in California. My soul was troubled. How can this be? How is this even happening?
Then, I turned my focus to Nepal. I spent many late nights reading and watching news stories. Civil war. Riots. Poverty. Death. Government abuses. Unbridled hate. Slaves. Gods and goddesses. My soul grieved. What can I do? What can be done? My mind wandered over scripture. How does God deal such tragedy? How am I to deal with such tragedy? Turning to the story of Job, I read how he dealt with tragedy. "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Then I turned to Ruth only to see God reconciling a broken family into the lineage of the Messiah.
I have developed a friendship with a pretty awesome girl from work during these past few months. And, as always seems to be the case, the question of whether or not this friendship would become something more came up. As we discussed and shared our feelings on the matter, she uttered words that caught me a tad off guard. "God is sovereign. He will do what He will."
God is sovereign.
Those words have been ringing in my ear since. Not just in regards to our friendship, but to the whole scope of humanity.
Friendships. Family. Relationships. God is sovereign.
Rape. Genocide. Abuse of power. God is sovereign.
Loss. Brokenness. Evil. God is sovereign.
Again, familiar ideas, but somehow they hit me harder this time. Like a brick was smashed into my head and the shards pressed into my heart. (Yes, that dramatically intense.) And again my body tensed. How can this be? Something doesn't make sense.
"Lord I believe, help my unbelief."
My immediate reaction was that something must be done. Somehow this sovereign God has to, right this moment, restore everything to Him. If not, this will never end. I've been doing a lot of reading of books/articles/sermons by Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, and other like minded individuals. The common theme being that God's plan of restoration began with Abraham. His covenant with Abraham began a reclaiming of creation that led to the ultimate act of redemption, the cross. But it doesn't stop there, the business of reclaiming creation does not stop there. Jesus then hands the plan to His followers and the revolution continued. The revolution continues.
As most revolutions go, it was, no, it is a reaction to a fundamental wrong. Something within the world is not right. Something must be done. Things are being done. Things will continue to be done. Despite all the wrong, things are becoming right. From community gardens to national revivals, the spirit is moving.
Aslan is on the prowl.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles (or the Spirit) a beautiful narrative unfolds of the early Christians reacting to the wrongs of their day. Famine, poverty, religious persecution, religious abuses, bad government, human rights violations, things completely exclusive to that place and that time. As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit, reconciliation was made known throughout the Roman world.
As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit, reconciliation was made known.
As a result of their actions and openness to the Spirit...
Which was a reaction to the broken, restoration came down to the community. People were made aware of this Jesus and His sacrifice and they wanted it because of what was being done.
This totally tweaked the Jewish leaders whose system was built on adhering to very specific rights and rituals that had to be followed to the "t" in order to find favor with God. As if God's favor was something to be earned like a merit badge to display for all to see. Something to feel better about themselves by. To say to the world, "Because I do righteous deeds, I am righteous." Or, I am good, because I do good.
Like a boy scout.
No offense to any scout or scout-like people, but the idea to do good simply because it's a duty and it makes you feel good is a totally twisted way of doing things. Helping an elderly woman cross the street is the right thing to do, so it is done. Not because you feel compassion for her physical state. Not because streets can be dangerous and you are moved to protect her. But because it is the right thing to do. And when the event is retold how Mr.s Murphy was aided across the street, pride swells inside. Another badge is awarded. Applause resounds throughout the hall.
Then what? Another good deed? More help for Mrs. Murphy? What is the motivation? It becomes a shallow deed. An action done just because it was the right thing to do. An action done with an expected reward. Compensation for a job well done.
In God's economy good deeds/righteous acts are done in reaction to grace. This is something the early church knew well. They were given something completely new and astounding; a personal relationship with the Living Creator of all. How could you not want to spread the love? Their lives became changed into a reflection of the love they had been shown (like the moon to the sun). They operated in a relationship to humanity that was triune in nature. When the Giver gave to fill a need, nothing was expected in return. No debt was incurred. There was no one saying, "You owe me one." This was distinct in the fact that, unlike the world, there was no notion of "one good deed deserves another." They gave and loved because it became an integral part of who they were. Their lives echoed God's redemptive purposes.
I have been moved by this notion. That the Spirit is moving through the Body. He is actively changing people to reflect the love of the Father. Not to gain praise and recognition for good deeds, but to right the wrongs of this world. To reconcile all creation to Himself. My trip is not to be taken lightly. It is not a chance to add to my spiritual resume. I have become increasingly aware that this trip is God allowing me to observe and to partake in His plan of redemption for Nepal (and more generally the world). In doing so, my perspective on life has changed. I have, in a sense, killed my inner boyscout. I am open to what the Spirit has in store for this trip. I'm open to what He has in store for the rest of my life. God has reached out and stretched me through this process. It hurt. There is no easy way to kill a boyscout. Looking back, it has taken two years to reach the point to where I was even close to being ready for this. God works in wonderful ways.
God is sovereigns. The Spirit is moving. Let us reflect the Son.