The Peculiar Life of Citizens of God's Kingdom
"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" 1 Peter 3:15 Aim to live a life that doesn't make sense unless the Gospel is true.
This was the thought that ran through the staff's mind after their unexpected conversation with a paramedic last week. Several of the SOS summer staff took advantage of some unusual days off to travel to St. Louis to celebrate the 4th at Fair St. Louis. During a concert on the Arch fairgrounds, one of our staff - amid the heat and excitement - grew sick on the dance floor. He and some fellow staff made their way over to the medical tent where the paramedics attended to him. "How much have you been drinking?" the paramedic asked. "Not a drop," he responded. "No, really, how much have you had to drink?" "None," the other two summer staff members chimed in, "We haven't been drinking. We're just here having some fun and he danced himself sick!" As the conversation continued, the paramedic learned that these three college students, along with 30 other SOS summer staff, had traveled up to St. Louis from Memphis for the weekend. "What are you doing in Memphis?" his curiosity growing. "We are working with an urban home repair non profit ministry, doing roofing work there for homeowners," they responded. "What? Why would a bunch of college students spend their summer helping people with roofing?" He was dumfounded, absolutely flummoxed. He could not comprehend why college-educated young men and women would lower themselves this sort of work, especially in hot and humid Memphis. "We are doing it because of the Gospel of Jesus - to share his good news in all we do," they three responded.
It's not every day that we have such a crystal clear opportunity to literally give a defense for our hope in Christ - as the Apostle Peter writes in his letter to the exiles - a hope that compels college students two thousand years later to sacrificially and joyfully serve economically-disadvantaged homeowners in Memphis, TN. Apart from the scandalous Gospel of Jesus Christ, it certainly does not make sense! In fact, if the gospel isn't true, then that paramedic ought to not just find it ridiculous and surprising, but actually ought to pity us. For the Apostle Paul said that if the gospel isn't true, if Jesus Christ did not truly raise from the dead, "if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:19) But, we have this hope as an anchor for our souls, sure and steadfast, that the Son of God did come in the flesh, he did lay down his life, he did rise from the dead and he promised that he would return to the earth!
We don't share this story to puff our chests, but to collectively remember the peculiar call given to the citizens of the kingdom of God: the call to to lay down our lives for others that they may taste and see the glory and goodness of our Creator God. That is the truth path to greatness. Everyone desires greatness, permanency and significance, but the world seeks it through trying to earn favor in man's eyes, or by doing something big or great. Jesus, though, knowing this God-imprinted desire on our hearts gives us the GPS coordinates to greatness: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-27)
This call to be a servant like Jesus is not a burdensome call, though; one which we aren't equipped for. Rather, it's a call of love coming from one who has given us the necessary power to live a life which contrasts that of the world. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness," Peter writes in his second letter the exiles, coming on the heels of his reminder in his first letter that God's people are "aliens and strangers" here on this earth who are to "declare the excellencies of him who has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light." (2 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 2:11,9)
So, that is our aim here at SOS - to proclaim the excellencies of our great God who has called us out of darkness and death and into his kingdom of light and life. We seek to do that through excellence in construction and in speaking the good news to all whom we have the privilege of partnering with - homeowners, neighbors, staff and volunteers.
I hope that this story can encourage us to "be prepared" as Peter says to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ. Are you aiming to live a life that doesn't make sense unless the Gospel is true? We'd love to hear from you.