Once upon a time, Bible in hand, underlined and highlighted yellow with notes scratched in the margins I set out to save the world.
I walked the streets looking for a chance to witness to someone, to save a lost soul. Surely these were the least of these. Jesus would’ve hung out in the head shops, with the skaters and punk rockers, with the homeless.
I had been a Christian less than a year and I knew my new faith required something of me.
I found the perfect project sitting cross-legged and slumped against a bench. His name was Smoky and his hands were as wrinkled as a brown paper bag, soiled and stained, ropy veins sticking from his arms, mottled blue and purple where needles had plunged, filling him with the only salvation he had ever known.
I shared my cigarettes with him, shaking out a Marlboro and cupping my hand around his as I flicked the lighter. His hands were shaking as he gestured wildly about, talking madness with solemn grey eyes, one milky and slanted.
I leaned down and offered my styrofoam box. It had a slice of pizza, the oil and cheese congealed and waxy. He ate it cold, chewing with his mouth open, the rotten stumps of his teeth black and decayed.
I offered to pray for him and my voice came out in a whisper as I pleaded with God to show up. When I opened my eyes, Smoky was taking in my legs and the cutoff shorts I was wearing. He tried to hug me and I patted his back awkwardly and pulled away. I dug into my shorts, pulled out a few dollars which I handed to him, said God bless you and walked away, feeling his emptiness in my wake.
But the years went on and I grew up, I don’t know what ever happened to him, I never saw him again.
I realize now that my idea of saving the world looked a lot more like me being their savior. That the people I wanted to save weren’t people I loved but projects I felt commissioned to complete. That the glory of God came secondary to the duty I felt bound to.
I practiced the gospel with a Pharisaic slant, making sure to include ample amounts of guilt for anyone not invested in the downtrodden, the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized.
I made justice and missions my true gospel, an addendum to the grace so lavishly poured out in the Bible.
Faith without works is dead, after all. So I figured the reciprocal would be the same: the more works, the more faith.
I prayed my life would matter, that God would do with it as He pleased. But I also had very distinct ideas of what that looked like. When I found myself married and settled in a small town raising children, it was easy to think I had failed my calling. I hadn’t done enough.
Complacency settled into my soul that had little to do with where I lived and everything to do with how I lived.
Because you cannot love Jesus and not care for the things he cares about.
God doesn’t just give us a new heart, He gives us His heart.
A heart that beats for every moment of glory seen in the feeding of the hungry, the freeing of the enslaved, the adoption of the lost into countries and homes and the very body of Christ. A heart that beats with mercy like a salve on the wounds of women who’ve been used and pushed aside, their bodies broken and taken from them. A heart that beats for every moment of love seen in the rebuilding of ruins, the sapling not broken, and a life not severed. A heart so abundantly full that your lips can’t help but speak of His goodness.
You cannot love Jesus and not have a heart that beats for justice and the glory of God seen splashed wide across souls and cities, countries, and the very continents of this earth. The whole earth reveals His glory and when we glimpse a sliver of if we can’t help but want to partake.
At 16, I had zeal. At 34, I have passion. It doesn’t come from what I can do. It doesn’t come from my desire to save the world.
It comes from the knowledge of the Holiness of God, His Glory, His call, and His purposes in my life. It comes from the grace filled soul, the sin stained broken parts pulled together and bound clean, the freedom found, the love poured out, and the pounding of my heart when I’m following hard after my Lord in faith and obedience.
We are called to love as He loves. We are called to serve as He served. We are called to see as He sees. Justice, love, and mercy are not an option, they are the very action of God manifest in our lives.