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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lines of Literature: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, part III

Our concept of reaching out to others with the Gospel usually includes service, as it should. As a church we seek to serve our community, meet their emotional and physical needs where we can, and serve. There is a danger that lurks in our service, however. A danger that is named Pride.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of charity, you know it isn't easy to accept it. (If it is easy to accept, than it might be wise to check if you are growing lazy, considering 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13: "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.")

I never really considered that a deeper way of connecting with someone might be asking for them to serve me, until I read this passage from Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, in regard to Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4):

"Middle Eastern wells do not have buckets attached to them. Each traveling group must have its own...The text assumes that Jesus and the disciples had such a bucket, but the disciples had taken it with them to the city. Jesus could easily have requested that they leave it behind for his use. But he had a plan.

By deliberately sitting on the well without a bucket, Jesus placed himself strategically to be in need of whomever appeared with the necessary equipment. The woman approached. On seeing her, Jesus was expected to courteously withdraw to a distance of at least twenty feet, indicating that it was both safe and culturally appropriate for her to approach the well. Only then could she move to the well, unroll her small leather bucket, lower it into the water, fill her jar and be on her way. Jesus did not move as she approached. She decided to draw near anyway. Then comes the surprise.

Jesus asks for a drink...
...Contained in this dramatic action is a profound theology of mission. Jesus so totally humbles himself that he needs her services. Jesus does not establish his initial relationship with her by explaining how she needs him and his message. That will come later. Rather his opening line means, "I am weak and need help! Can you help me?"
Daniel T. Niles, the great Sri Lankan theologian, has written of Jesus:
'He was a true servant because He was at the mercy of those whom He came to serve...This weakness of Jesus, we His disciples must share. To serve from a position of power is not true service but beneficence.'

...Niles concludes with, 'The glory of the Lion is the glory of the Lamb.'

The first "mission trip" in Christian history was the sending out of the twelve disciples recorded in Mark 6:7-13. The disciples were commanded to, 'take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics' (Mk 6:8-9).

They were to go in need of the people to whom they went..."
(Large portions of this excerpt are left out to conserve space. I encourage you to read the book so you don't miss a thing. Quoted from pages 202-204.)

The sentences in bold face, above, especially struck me. When I think about evangelizing and "illuminating," I often think of things I can do for people. I confess it never occurred to me that in some circumstances a far humbler approach is to reveal my own need and bless those I hope to share Christ with by asking for them to meet my need. 

1 comment:

Laura said...

Revolutionary concept, especially to Western Christians. Thank you for bringing home a point that God has been introducing to us as we pray about a call toward missions.

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