Just this past week I was grabbing groceries for my family. While I was checking out, the individual working the register saw our church’s logo on my vest, and asked if I was involved with the church. I introduced myself as the pastor. This person then walked closer and said very seriously, “May I ask you a question?”
Now in my limited run as a pastor, you can never guess what is going to follow after those six words. In my mind, I began to anticipate what I thought would be the question to burst forward. For example, I anticipated something that had to do with the church’s view on human sexuality and transgenderism, or perhaps the state of politics, or even some relevant to the end times. These topics are what typically come forth. Instead, this individual’s query was far more simple, yet nevertheless profound.
I was asked, “Why are people so jolly only this time of year and not the rest?” I was taken a back in part. I think this person caught the surprise on my face, though it was masked. I mention that because this person then began to say, “I know that I’m saved, but I can’t help but wonder why this is.”
“I think it’s because people are flawed.” I replied.
After this, more shoppers came in to the purchase line, and I invited the worker to church, and left. But the thought has stuck with me. The questions that lingered in my mind were: Is a Christian called to be perpetually jolly? What did she mean by that?
Jolliness itself is a rather flawed word. We think of Santa Claus giggling, or individuals wrapped in red clothes smiling profusely. We would agree that it would be bizarre to keep Santa about year-round, or even that we should only don red garments, especially sweaters during the warmer months. So, what was it that was in view? It was not generic cheer, but love and concern for others.
There are many mysteries in Christianity. The infinite God taking true flesh and a reasonable soul upon Himself is an ineffable mystery. The God of the Universe shedding His blood for our sakes is too great for us to comprehend (cf. Acts 20:28). But I’m afraid that sometimes, as Christians, we are content with the mysteries and discontent with the ordinary realities of what it means to follow Christ.
I think this is why, in the Gospel of Luke, we find the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke alone records this parable, which many are familiar with in concept, but not in application. The catalyst to this parable was a question provided by a smart aleck lawyer. This lawyer sought to make Jesus look like a fool and asked “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 ESV)
If we are Christians, we are called to love our neighbor. We are called to love our Christian neighbors, our non-Christian neighbors, our gay neighbors, our straight neighbors, our atheist neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, every delightful neighbors, and especially our less-than-pleasant neighbors. Everyone deserves the same treatment of self-sacrificial love because they are made in the image of God. Unlike our unbelieving world, which demands love without a metaphysical base, we recognize the image of God in humanity as the only basis for compassion and kindness.
The sort of neighborly love which God demands of us is observable. It is a love without strings attached. It is not a love looking to get anything back in return. It is a Christ-rooted, Christ-originated, Christ-soaked love. It is a love offered merely because it is what we are called to do.
To return to the question presented to me, this individual was giving their assessment of our area. They were not being rude. They were not trying to trap me as the lawyer sought to trap Jesus. They were simply offering a genuine question.
Are you going to show Christ’s love to others once the decorations are put away?
The world is becoming increasingly intolerant of genuine Christianity. Yes, you can find the cheap and hollow versions of it, which caters to every new cultural fad (which will inevitably lead to its self-destruction), but you Christians who root yourself in God’s word – how are you going to show the love of Christ? It cannot be found merely in the church. It cannot be bound merely to the creeds and confession which we confess. It must display itself in your words and actions. In your tones and your gestures. If not then we do far worse than merely put away Christmas cheer, we put out the very light this world needs today which is Christ. Our duty is simple: make Christ visible, believable, and beautiful. I pray that you do that this week, especially with Christmas behind you.
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