Thursday, December 20

Take up your Shovel and follow Me

We were putting up Christmas decorations with some of our neighbors and their children recently; one of their parents is from the States, and one from here, so they speak English well, but occasionally they get things mixed up. At dinner one of their sons spoke up and said, "Didn't someone famous say, 'Take up your shovel and follow me.'?" I think he's getting the "take up your cross" thing a little confused. But, later, I was thinking about what he had said. What if Jesus had told us to take up our shovels? Would the world be any different? C.S. Lewis writes about how we've confused the modern notion of what Christian love should be about. We think of ourselves sacrificing something, and think that that's what Jesus would have us do; after all, we're taking up our cross by denying ourselves. 'Love', though, hasn't always been thought of as denying ourselves. It used to be that showing someone love was helping them get the good things that we are able to enjoy. It's not so much about me doing without as it is me helping someone else get. It's definitely a difference; it means that instead of not eating out and saving myself some money, I take someone else out. Instead of feeling guilty about the good things I have, I try to help the people around me get those same good things.

As we were putting our 'Bethlehem star' on the tree, I wondered how different things would be if we took up shovels instead of bearing crosses. There is definitely a lot of work to be done around us. People are hurting, hungry, lonely. Does it really matter that I "bear my cross" when there is so much I could be doing to build God's Kingdom? I recognize more every day that just because I was born in America, into a place where I know I'll have food, healthcare, and education, doesn't mean I can ignore the people that weren't born into the same situation. I don't remember asking to be born in America, and I'm pretty sure the people dying in Darfur, or living in terror in Iraq, or being oppressed in Afghanistan didn't ask to be born there, either. The Palestinian man here, a modern representative of the same people that the angels appeared to to announce the birth of Jesus, didn't ask to be born into a situation where he and his family are treated unjustly. People can debate what it means to take up our cross and how that should affect the way we live our lives. I think I'll just grab my shovel and get to work building God's Kingdom.

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