My friend, Jared Bryant, sends a mass text out each morning with a Scripture. Admittedly, I often read the text in a sort of half-awake daze in between my shower and my morning coffee or breakfast. There’s no hope for retaining any information for this dark, desperate time of day.
But this morning, the Scripture grabbed me and wrestled me to the ground in such a confrontational way – a way that, well, honestly, I’ve never had such an intensely personal reaction to a passage of Scripture. Maybe that’s bad, but it’s true.
The text was simple, quick, and shattering:
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. – Isaiah 1:17
My first instinct was to love this text. If it sounds bold, risky, and adventurous, you can generally count me in. The tone conveys a sort of Robin Hood imagery – of good guys sweeping in against bad guys, seizing the day, and winning out. It’s heroic, and passionate, and everything I love about following Jesus.
But then, it got personal.
My life doesn’t add up. I’ve attended church since I can remember, was active in youth groups, and was even a full time youth pastor for awhile. I consider church to be a priority in my life. And, maybe that’s the problem. The thing about church is that it can too easily become recreational and keep us from being missional. Our focus can too easily shift to busying ourselves with church activities, that we miss out on the larger and more creative vision of the kingdom of Jesus.
But “church” doesn’t get to steal all the blame.
For the majority of the problem takes up residence in the cold, selfish places of my heart. There are parts of me that don’t want to be inconvenienced to help the poor, or to struggle with the plight of the addicts and the oppressed. There’s a part of me that wants a normal life, with normal things going on, and a pretty reliable schedule.
Brave adventures shouldn’t fit neatly into our schedules.
Today, I am learning a hard truth: the words of my faith and the action of my faith must match up. It’s not enough to play church and feel like a good Christian. It’s time to actually find a real, messy, impractical, adventurous way to live out the heart of God. My words have been bold, but my hands have been cowardly.
It’s time to figure out how my small life will encourage the oppressed, defend the causes of those left behind, and plead the case of the weak. I want my life to leave a legacy of Jesus’ grace, redemption, and hope.
So my question for you is this: Do you struggle with this? What are some practical ways that you’ve found to start living out this passage?