One of the great criticisms of our current generation, especially in the US, is that we have an ingrained desire to be God to ourselves. Most believers would consider this a condition handed down to us from the very beginning, as part of the original “fall.” The serpent offers the first family the chance to “be like God, knowing both good and evil.” They accept the offer, and we have been chasing after that chance ever since.
But there is more to being God than just knowing the difference between good and evil, as Jim Carrey finds out in this “Bruce Almighty” clip…
Seriously though, being God unto ourselves is something to avoid… but being Jesus to someone else is something we should be all about. We should always have an answer for the “Where is God when…?” question because God indwells us. God is there in every situation – good or horrible – in each of us. No one should ever have to wonder about the current presence of God. If they are with us, God is present there. If that isn’t obvious, then maybe we are not being clear in our representation of him.
Asking “What would Jesus do?” is so yesterday, or maybe even so last millennium, but it remains a good question to ask ourselves as people around us face crisis. Maybe we should restate that question as, “How can I be Jesus in someone’s life today?”
Living the answer to that question is the essence of being on mission, being missional, or being a missionary in any and all contexts. Living the answer to that question draws us away from the spiritual platitudes, well-meaning but empty phrases about God’s goodness or presence or control or ultimate victory, that come quickly to mind and are easily said. Words are easy to use because they don’t require action on our part. We can skate by saying, “be warm and be filled,” and leave it at that. The writer of James speaks exactly to this tendency, so we know it isn’t a new challenge.
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warm and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? James 2:15-16
No. This type of question leads us into action. When someone is hurting, they need to be given love, not just given words about a loving God.
Is living this way easy? Not at all. Not even a little bit, though some of us are better at it than others. Being the hands and feet of Jesus to someone requires that we sacrifice being what we want to be in those situations. We must sacrifice ourselves to meet the needs of others. Expend ourselves to feed them when they are hungry. Pour ourselves out to give them drink when they are thirsty.
Being God to ourselves and being God to someone else are exact opposites. The former is our natural bent. The latter is our supernatural commission. Jesus said it this way, “This is my command, that you love one another just as I have loved you.”
And how did Jesus love us?
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8