Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On Suffering and Sacrifice: Entitlement, the Great Adversary of Sacrifice (CW-My Lovely Wife)

CW comes from a strong line of Christian heritage, including pastors and three generations of missionaries. She has lived all over the world and served as a teacher in Japan and Central Asia, where she also aided in community development. She is preparing to move to Asia to work on issues of justice and advocate for the marginalized. And she is my wife...and I love her.

This is basically my testimony and myself preaching to myself as I think about sacrifice and what God expects of me.
When I was 22, I moved to Japan, as a teacher. I spent three years there, and then another three years in Central Asia also teaching and doing community development. For the first four to five years of that time, I was young, free of debt, ambitious, had no desire to settle down, and just enjoyed the ride of serving God overseas. Then something started happening in my heart. I was 27, no prospects of marriage, burnt out from investing my life in others without seeing fruit, and really angry with God. Bitterness and entitlement began welling up in my heart before I could even name them. Here, I had “sacrificed” so much for His Name and Calling, and didn’t feel like He was giving me anything in return.

In the midst of my whining and complaining, God brought my husband to Central Asia, and we quickly fell in love and moved back here to the great USA to get married and start our family. Now, I didn’t go completely crazy, because we were pretty “poor” and my husband wouldn’t let me, but my heart coveted all that America had to offer – a nice house, a picket fence, Starbucks coffee every morning, trips to the mall, and fancy gadgets with unlimited access to the Internet. Yes, we were/are the typical middle-class American family.

Then my husband started talking crazy, talking about moving our little cozy family to the slums of Asia. WHAT!! You want me to sacrifice all this and live like a poor person? No way! I’m a middle-class American, and really happy right now! That’s when God began doing a second (or 102nd) conversion in my heart. As I really searched the Scriptures and read and re-read the life and example of Jesus, the Incarnate, (and Shane Claiborne and Scott Bessenecker), I realized that I had some serious issues going on in my heart – first and foremost: ENTITLEMENT.

Jesus is the ultimate example of what it looks like to sacrifice, after all He did make the ultimate sacrifice – His death on the cross. But, what I began to really understand was that from the moment of His birth, all the way through His three years of ministry, and then death – SACRIFICE characterized His every move and attitude.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2).

Jesus was entitled to all the world has to offer – He made it after all (Col 1). Yet, He was born into poverty, never owned a home, made a simple living as a carpenter, gave up his beauty rest to spend time communing with His Father, gave His time and full attention to the needy, lost His reputation by hanging out with the prostitutes and destitutes, was constantly mocked and criticized, was disliked more than liked, and then died in the place of a murderer.

Then I look to the early church – those following Christ, who had actually seen Him in action. What was their attitude towards entitlement and sacrifice? They sold their possessions, lands, homes, so that anyone in need could be supplied for. They had no entitlement issues! Amazing!

I get so trapped into thinking that because I serve God, do good things, and am a pretty good person, I’m entitled to good things. The problem is, in reality there is no connection between doing and being good and good things. The teaching of Jesus is, that when we follow Him, we will be persecuted; we will be challenged to sell all we have and give to the poor; we will no longer serve money/things/possessions, and instead we will give to whoever has need. Last time I checked, 1 in 6 people live in extreme poverty. There is need out there, and I have entitlement issues!

I like to daydream about what it would look like if I got over my entitlement issues and really made some sacrifices. What would it look like to have no money in my savings account because I gave it all away to the poor? What would happen if I spent less time in bed and woke up and spent hours with Jesus each morning? What would happen if I gave up every Saturday morning to serve the homeless here in Philly?

I have a feeling these really small sacrifices would actually set me free.


Roger F said...

Great post! Thanks

Erin McFarland said... have a way of writing that delivers the truth in a loving and gracious way. Yet it's still the solid truth. Thanks for sharing this. As always, your thoughts have given me more to meditate and pray on. Grant you are a blessed man :)

Ordinary Radical said...

E, she is definitely gracious and all around the better half! She needs to be a regular contributor so people dont think I am crazy and that I have my wife around to keep me in check! :)