[Jesus said,] "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:17 NIV).
The professional student. I remember seeing him around campus in college. I'll call him James. James was an old guy. Probably around thirty-two at the time. At first I thought he must be a little slow in his learning process.
But then I discovered he already had a degree. Actually, he had several. And he was working on another one when I showed up to campus. You'd see him walking slowly along with his backpack full of books. I'm not sure he had any friends. There weren't too many old guys like him on campus. So he pretty much hung to himself, went to class, and then went home.
Now, the point of this story is not that we should have befriended him. Maybe we should have. But the point is we thought it was very curious that James would keep going to school. We liked school, but the goal of the university for the ones I hung out with was to find someone to marry ... I mean ... get a degree and then get a job and get to work.
You see, we think someone who gets an education but does not apply it to some constructive work is unusual. But every week churches fill up with professional students. Students of Jesus who study his words and even memorize episodes of his life but walk out and never put into practice what they have been "learning."
The big "elephant in the room" in our churches is discipleship. Unlike the professional student, disciples know the word of God and it shapes how they love and serve people.
For instance, Jesus spent much of his time sharing meals with people. In his day this was a form of inclusion. And the religious people of the day had certain people they would eat with and there was a list of those who were black-balled. Jesus had a way of breaking the rules.
When we love people like Jesus loves people, then folks are going to ask questions. And notice what Jesus says to answer their question about him associating with those they considered undesirable:
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12-13 NIV).
God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13). We can offer a sacrifice all day every day and not have a heart that is shaped like his. His target is sinners. The fact is, we are all sinners. What Jesus means is that if you don't see yourself as a sinner in need of a savior, then you won't need him. And you won't want to have him in your house for dinner. He's likely to bring you on a mission to serve the "least of these," not just those who can return the favor.
Have you — like most folks who consider themselves Christians — been stuck in school, long on information and short on transformation? Maybe it's time to put the books down, find the nearest exit, and let your learning lead your life.
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