She was a speaker at a conference I was attending. She's a missionary in Nineveh. She did not want to go to Nineveh. She'd rather be anyplace but Nineveh. There is very little that is pleasant about Nineveh, up to and including all the Ninevites who wanted her dead. But she went. She is living there. She is being obedient. Even though she's not even allowed to preach the gospel.
I drove home after the conference and met up with Paul. Our Bible study was going over the passage in Romans 9:1-5 and the question came up—was this serious? Was he seriously willing to give up eternal salvation and life everlasting with God if it meant all the Jews would be saved? Would he really spend eternity in hell for them? Then the question was raised, "Would you?"
"Yes. Absolutely," said Paul, a 21-year old sitting on the end of our couch. "In a heartbeat. I'd give it all up for Mormons. They are just so close!"
I don't know what anyone else thought, but I thought he was nuts.
"Huh-uh," I said. "No way. We get to see Jesus! I couldn't give that up for anyone! Maybe I've got attachment disorder or something, but there's no person I love so much that I'd give up the chance to live with Jesus."
I haven't figured out if Paul's conviction was even godly. Even Jesus, Who died for all of us, was only separated from the Father for a few hours. He knew He'd be going back. Is it biblical to want others to experience eternity with God at the expense of your own eternity? Isn't that loving people more than God?
Of course, it's all rhetorical since it's not going to happen.
Last Saturday morning, I was sitting in bed, distraught. Our backyard is a hot mess. Drought, soil only good for thistles, a half-finished fort...the neighbors must be horrified. I was thinking about my ability to start really ambitious projects and not finish them. I should really spend the day finishing the fort. Put up the door, the wall in the front, and paint it. At least something would be done.
But then I picked up my devotions and read about how we should put God first in everything. Okay. Certainly God doesn't want the neighbors to have to look at the disaster that is my yard. But I'd better ask first. God, what is your priority about the fort?
Who is the fort for?
What's more important, finishing the fort or finishing it with JT?
Oh. Yeah. And JT was spending the afternoon riding around in a cart, watching Dev golf.
So I took the dog for a walk instead.
Putting other people first looks different in every situation, doesn't it? And for some reason, it's really hard to remember to do. Not putting others first seems so reasonable. It's perfectly reasonable to not want to go to Nineveh where the authorities watch your every move, begging you to mess up just once so they can throw you in prison. It's reasonable to want to work on the backyard on the one Saturday you have off, even if it means not including your kid who would rather play video games anyway. And it's reasonable—to the point of obvious—to want to claim your reward of eternity with Jesus instead of giving it away to someone else. It would take a very unreasonable whale to convince me this is a good idea.
It's hard for my little task-oriented, over-scheduled heart to remember how much people matter to God and how little our earthly lives really mean.
But we live in an unreasonable world, as I was reminded of at the conference. Did you know there are Afghan refugees in Iran? And that Iranians tend to hate Afghans? And that a large number of men in Iran—Iranian and Afghan—are heroin addicts? Somehow I don't think my idea of reasonable is going to impress an Afghan woman in Iran who is trying to support her children with no skills and a perpetually stoned husband.
I also don't think it would impress my next door neighbor. She already had two 20-somethings living with her—kids who couldn't go home for whatever reason. But when she heard of a homeless family, a mom and kids living in a shelter and the dad in their truck, she put her foot down. No way were they living in a shelter if she still had floor space. They now have nine people in a four-bedroom house.
A couple weeks ago, I took a drive through the neighborhood that was hit by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The burn pattern led me to only one conclusion: the only reason any of those houses are standing is by the grace of God and the sacrifice of the fire fighters. Period. The fire skipped, hitting one house in a block, three in another, talking out an entire street, but leaving the next untouched. There was no pattern to it. Most poignant were the foundations with the stone pillars rising thirty feet to hold up nothing but sky. The firefighters who protected us that week know what it's like to sacrifice for others—for strangers. The night they protected that neighborhood was dark and smoky and windy and incredibly hot.
Living in Nineveh, giving up salvation, or fighting a fire in 100+ degree weather puts little things like wanting a nice yard into perspective. People are not reasonable, and neither is God's love for them.