The question that I continually face is “Am I willing to lay down my life so that others may live?” This is a terribly haunting and troubling question. What does it really mean to lay down one’s life? Is it just a matter of giving up a heartbeat for another, or is it also allowing one’s heart to break, so that others may live? I tend to think it is to be willing for both to happen, not only for our friends, but also for our enemies. The death of Jesus represents both concepts in regards to laying down one’s life. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
In 2013, God sent me two treks to begin to show me what this means. He sent me to Kenya to look into the eyes of the orphaned, and He sent me to our streets to look through the eyes of the homeless. Through these experiences, He broke my heart. He showed me how apart from His grace, that I too am spiritually orphaned and homeless. He then called me to give more of my life “so that others may live.”
Recently, I was led to the story of Esther, who was a Jewish queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus. She was out of place, and living between two different worlds—of the Jews and the Persians. Her uncle, Mordecai, informed Esther of a decree that would exterminate the Jews. Esther was reluctant to speak because of her fear of the King, but Mordecai replied to her: “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14). I believe I was led to this passage because I am frequently concerned about things, and yet, I do not speak up.
I am concerned that we as a corporate “Church” are shutting the “door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces” (Matthew 23:13). The church is quick to recite John 3:16, but neglects to understand the amazing teaching found in the next verse: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This verse is further illuminated in John 12:32, when Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Notice that the message of God’s son is not condemnation, but acceptance for everyone! The Church, which bears the name of Christ, must share in dispensing the amazing grace and unconditional love that He demonstrated in His life, teachings, and death.
The love of Jesus is incarnational and we are called to model it! Incarnational love means that we model the spirit of Christ as found in Philippians 2:1-11, and engage in the ministry described in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus did wait for people to come to Him, but He came to us! He came not to condemn, but to love and to show us the Father. He came to heal us and to sanctify us! Jesus tells us:"Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus came to tear down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14), and to “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). And, Paul exhorts us to be Christ’s ambassadors as we continue in the similar ministry of reconciliation! (2 Cor. 5:20).
Dr. Rob Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Business Studies/ Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder and President of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Cumberland County, NJ. He is also the Founding Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ.
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