A Parable: Sometimes I Make Myself Sick
A parable: (sometimes I make myself sick)
by Jim Lee
I was dressed in my nicest suit, driving on the way to church on Sunday. I sped past a scruffy old woman walking beside the road; with her was a homely and sad looking little boy. For just a moment I felt something strange, but I was expected to be to church on time, and I was running a little late.
You know, I do try to go to Sunday School and church regularly, and I sing in the choir, too. I want people to know how much I really love God. I got me a WWJD bracelet from the Christian gift store, and also a big sticker on my car has the shape of a fish. I'm set to tell the world that I'm a Christian. To show that I am not ashamed of my faith, I also have several Christian tee shirts. There are magnetic Bible verses on my refrigerator, there is Christian music playing in my car, and (get this!) my license plate says " ILVJSUS".
Hey, you should see my new Bible! It's got all the great notes in it that help me to understand the doctrines and the original meaning of the Bible words. And I've got lots of other Christian books, too. People will be able to tell that I am a spiritual person. And, I hate to brag, but you should have heard the prayer I prayed in church last week. Everybody was shouting, "Amen!"
So I was talking to Jesus about all of these great things I had done for him, and about the bold stand that I took. Then I noticed that he started to cry. For a moment I thought that he was just so overwhelmed and blessed by my devotion to him! But then I heard him say that I had done nothing. His voice seemed to break when he said the word, "nothing".
Stunned, I asked him, "What, then, do you have in mind that I should do?" I wish I hadn't asked that question. I was expecting to hear some high-sounding religious inspirational answer. His response was just the opposite. As best I can tell you, here is what he had to say:
"There is a man in prison who needs a friend. Visit him and encourage him. He did wrong, but he is so sorry about it, and so afraid. Many people who think they are better are putting him down now. He must have a friend who will believe in him so he will not give up.
"There is a family waiting for him and they have no warm clothes. You have plenty. Give them some of your best clothes. Let your children give some of their best clothes to his children.
"There is a man on the street who has no food and no home. He has a name. Learn his name and look him in the eye and gently call him by name. Then give him food, or take him home with you and let him eat from your table. Do not mention my name until you have done at least that much.
"There is a child who is very sick. Visit her, and see that she gets good medical care. Give her kind words, lots of hugs, and pray with her. Even if you have to sell your tee shirts, your music and your Bible, make sure that she has the medicine that she needs."
"But Lord….", I began to protest.
"That's one more thing", he said. "I would rather you not call me 'Lord', until you are ready to do what I say. All of these things that you are so proud of have made a mockery of the whole thing."
I hung my head for a moment. When I looked up I saw in his eyes a look of hope. He still believed that I could find the way to live a life that wasn't centered on myself!
Time seemed to pass very slowly the rest of the day. Curling up in a warm recliner, I tried to ponder some of these things. I asked myself how many times my religion had consisted of fitting into a Christian subculture rather than helping the hurting. I considered the possibility that our sermons and songs and slogans were just so much "god-talk", and nothing more, unless accompanied by some kind of action. I thought of all the times I had enjoyed a "great service" in church when nobody was really served.
Thinking of my fine home and my fine clothes that I wear when I drive my fine car to my fine church building, something strange occurred to me. Maybe the real Jesus could better have been found in that scruffy old woman and that sad little boy that I drove past. And I was so "religious" that I missed what I was really looking for.
Today I took the first step of genuine faith, obedience, and integrity. I removed the bumper sticker.
Jim Lee is a former fundamentalist pastor, who ten years ago was blown away by pure grace, which changed everything in his life and "ruined his ministry". He lives in Fairhope, AL, blogs at Gracewriter and can be reached at JTL98 (at) bellsouth (dot) net.