Jump Start # 2569
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
The other day I watched a documentary about President James Garfield. The show was about his assassination, and the horrific attempts to find the bullet lodged inside of him. The wounded president lingered for months before dying of infection. Many accusations were made toward the lead doctor and some of his practices. The show highlighted the life of Garfield, the poor boy who grew up to become President. Several from the Garfield historical society spoke about his kindness, especially towards the poor and the slaves. He was not part of the massive political machinery that was run by rich businessmen and politicians. He was different.
What the show never mentioned, not once, was that Garfield was a preacher. He was connected to the American Restoration Movement and was a preacher among the churches of Christ and Christian churches in the mid 1800’s. I have preached at a little place called Wolf Creek, where Garfield is reported to have preached and stayed.
As I was watching this show, I was thinking of our verse today. Paul changed. He was no longer the person he used to be. “…and the life which I now live” is so telling. The life which he now lived was shaped by Jesus. And, when one is shaped by Jesus, he will naturally be kinder, more thoughtful, and more of a servant. The program about Garfield stated that he was a gifted speaker and hundreds would come and hear him, but the impression was that he was giving political speeches. Nothing, even by the Garfield scholars, was said about his preaching, his faith and “the life that I now live.” I don’t know if they producers of the show were trying to appeal to a larger, secular audience, but they missed understanding this man. He was the way he was because of his faith, his lifelong study of God’s word and his allowing Christ to dwell within his heart.
The program about Garfield could also be said of us. Our family, our friends, our co-workers may see a difference in us, but without understanding the link to Jesus Christ, they will never fully understand why we are the way we are. We are different. It’s has nothing to do with the way we were raised, our circumstances, the experiences in our lives. It’s all about Jesus. He has changed us. He has molded us. He has made us who we are.
There are three aspects of Jesus’ life that we manifest and the world has a hard time understanding.
First, there is the grace and forgiveness factor. This is truly of Christ. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are a people of second chances. The returning prodigal receives a celebration, not a lecture and a beating. The woman caught in adultery is given life not death. The denying Peter is allowed to continue on with the Lord. That’s our story. That’s the way we treat others. The world looks for some unique experience in our past that explains this. Some sad story. Some tragedy as a youth. But the world misses it. It’s none of those things. It’s Jesus. We forgive because Jesus does. Without the Lord, we would not be this way.
Second, there is the heart of a servant that swells within us. We see things to do and we do them. We don’t ask for anything in return. We don’t get upset if no one even thanks us. The world tries to find some oppression in our past that we overcame that makes us this way. The world misses it. It’s Jesus. He came and washed feet. He served. He wasn’t pampered. He wasn’t sheltered. He wasn’t snapping His fingers and expecting the apostles to come running. He was making life better and showing the multitudes the hope of the Gospel. That’s what we do. We take food to people who need it. We call. We visit. We serve. Without the Lord, we would not be this way.
Third, there is a deep love within us for all people. We love, because God first loved us. We want all to do well. We want all to be saved. This love compels us to serve and to extend grace and forgiveness. We love those who do not love us. We do not seek to get even. We do not dwell upon hurting others. We pray for those who oppose us. We love and pray for our enemies. Again, the world has a hard time understanding this. They look at some social injustice that changed us and left an impression upon us. They try to find the times when we were victims. But that’s not true of all of us. We’ve spent time with Jesus. The Cross is God’s greatest demonstration of His love for all of us. We are this way because of Jesus.
The program about Garfield missed it. They really didn’t understand the man. And, in the same way many do not understand us today. Jesus makes all the difference. He did to Paul. He does to us.
The life that I live…it’s a life of choice. It’s a life of Christ. It’s the best life.