Friday, 30 July 2010

The way up, is down

Jesus' teaching about true Christian greatness is very simple. The way up is down. To get higher, you must descend. The true honours of the kingdom belong, not to those who have raised themselves to great positions of authority, but to those who have lowered themselves into self-less service. The very greatest of all, is the one who has become the servant of all (Mark 10:44).

It is right to be ambitious. God made man ambitious. But like every other thing, godly ambition gets corrupted by the sinful selfishness. Godly ambition means wanting to get lower, get humbler - to where we can do more to serve for Jesus' sake. Even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his very self as a ransom for many.

I read a lovely example of this in Steve Saint's book which I mentioned a couple of months ago. Rachel Saint (Steve's aunt, sister of the martyred Nate Saint) has a very strong impression when she was converted that God was saying to her, that if she was faithful, then he would give her the privilege of serving a bunch of brown people who were still living in the stone age. If the word "privilege" just made you wince, then it's time to do some more learning in the school of Jesus.

Only by putting together the pieces in the book did I realise that it was some decades later that Rachel Saint became a Bible translator and live-in missionary amongst the jungle Waodani tribe - the tribe that murdered her brother. She became the one who taught them the Scriptures and the way of salvation, or "God's trail" as it is touchingly described, patiently, and slowly over a number of years.

In the worldly way of thinking, that is madness. But in Jesus' thinking, this was true greatness. She passed the tests, proved faithful, learnt how to get down lower and lower - until aged 46 she had descended far enough and was ready to be given the prize of spending the next 36 years being a nobody in this present world, but a great favourite in heaven as she served that jungle people. Awesome.

I think I see the same spirit too at work in this paragraph penned recently by a missionary wife:
Last week we visited two of the poorest families in the Church.  One family are relocating to the village because they cannot afford the 3 pound a month rent!  They had no money to transport their things so I offered a storing space we have, as they were going to leave all their things!  However when chatting it appeared that there would be nothing to leave - one stool.  No bed, no mattress, no chair, no nothing.  A young couple with a dear 9 month old.  We met in their hut, the 2 families had had nothing to eat for two days and the children were sitting in a daze, quietly resigned, no fuss.  Of course when we heard of the situation we made sure they had plenty of food.  What a sad, sad life some of these people live, the eldest child sent home from school as there was no money for fees.  One of these families is with us on a Sunday and last Sunday was just one of those days.  The smallest child pooped three times on the bathroom floor  (tmi!) as he never uses a toilet.  The mother is struggling with incontinence since the birth of her last child and the odours in our lounge last Sunday were not good.  (Another lady suffers the same!) The cushions soiled, soiled women, soiled children, manky house... these are really the times when we are called to love with that great compassion that the Lord Jesus has towards us!  To hold one's tongue and to take time to gently teach, to ignore smells, to value people, to accept their help with the dishes, to encourage and build up, not to belittle and make ashamed.  To do the opposite of Kenyan Society and to love... How I pray for a more genuine heart of love in THESE situations, not one that grumbles and 'fudder fudders' about the unpleasant job of sorting the loo etc etc.  That is what I am called to do, but only with God's enabling do I stand a chance of making progress.
Perhaps you have a good load of qualifications, career's going well, etc., and you're really making it. Very good; all these things are good in their place.

But never forget that in Jesus' kingdom, the way up is down. How are you really doing?

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