Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time Well-Wasted: People Matter

Well, I haven't written as much as I thought I would, owing mostly to social priorities and a full-time job. But I have come to believe that spending time ministering to people is never a waste. Honestly, though, there are times when I feel like I should be spending more time developing useful skills for the Kingdom or honing my talents or something. Now, I think there is a time and a place for that, but it's evident from the Gospels that Jesus put a premium on personal time with people. The best example of this (that I know) is in Mark 6, where Jesus neglects his own need and the disciples' need for rest to preach to the people. It's actually kind of funny the way the story unfolds.

The disciples of Christ had just finished their town-to-town ministry -- you know, the "don't bring your swords or a change of clothes and preach the Good News" charge they had received from Jesus. They had gone to many towns and preached the Word, healed the sick, and cast out demons -- a pretty wild and eventful trip, to be sure. They had walked dozens of miles without a change of clothes, and hadn't stayed in their own beds for a long, long time. Mark reports that they were so busy doing ministry they didn't even have time to eat. So, it's really no surprise when Jesus suggests that they get away from the people and get some rest. So Jesus and the disciples hop in in a boat and set sail across the Sea of Galilee toward a quiet, secret destination. Only problem is, Jesus was so attractive to the locals that they literally ran around the rim of the Lake to meet him once more. (Oh, that I would desire Him as much!) If I had been one of the disciples, I'm sure I would have been ticked. I mean, really, you've devoted a good chunk of time and energy to spread the Gospel: is it too much to ask for a little free time? But here is Jesus' response:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Fiveā€”and two fish." --Mark 6:34-38

Not only does Jesus teach them for a long time, but He tells the disciples -- all of whom are incredibly tired -- to give the crowd something to eat! From this context, it's not hard to understand why the disciples responded the way they did! But Jesus shows Himself, once again, as the perfect example of true servanthood, as alluded to later in the 2nd chapter of Philippians. Of course, you know the rest: the disciples find 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and Jesus multiplies it and feeds at least 5 thousand people. Eventually, Jesus breaks away from the disciples and the crowd, and catches up with the disciples on the water! Such was the attractiveness of Christ. Would it be that the Church were always so desirable!

The bottom line I read out of this is that God wants us to pursue souls, first and foremost. Jesus had compassion on the people: not just for the sake of their physical bodies, but also for their starved souls. Just as Jesus, we need to place the interests of others above our own and empty ourselves. Sometimes we will be tired...sometimes we will be hungry...sometimes we will be dirty...but God wants us to lay ourselves down all the same.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. --1 Corinthians 9:19-23


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