Monday, June 14, 2010

New Beginnings and Complacent Christianity

On Thursday, I leave Boise. On the 28th of this month, I start Cadet Basic Training. In early August, I start my first year of school at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

A lot is going through my head. Just graduated, just received my Eagle Scout, newly minted adult. I'm having trouble processing most of what's going on, and I've resorted to simply 'taking it all in.' I'm going to West Point with no expectations, and in preparation for that I'm taking each day leading up to Beast (Basic Training) one day at a time.

In the book Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? author Chris Plekenpol invites a gay, HIV positive, homeless man to live with him. Chris decides that merely inviting this man to Bible study, only to drop him back off at the street corner afterwards, isn't good enough. Chris is stretched with the question we've all faced when helping someone in need: how can I help them without enabling them? What can I give them that will help them, not hurt them? Chris decides to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the literal sense: he invites the homeless man, James, into his inner circle, and into his house. What Chris finds is that James is really the one helping Chris. Sharing Christ's love in a tangible way comes with incredible risk. Chris finds that the payoff is more than worth it.

I can relate to Chris on many levels. Chris held many of the same feelings towards homeless people before his interaction with James as I do now. In many ways, even the most compassionate mega church draws a line in the sand when it comes to helping people. We'll go into the park and feed them, but only if we can retreat back to our suburban houses afterwards to unwind and watch some cable. I hate to admit it, but I'm as guilty as anyone. How many times have I seen a homeless man or woman and thought "man, what brings them here, to this place in their life?" and then continued on my way to the movie theater to use the "anything helps" change on popcorn and candy?

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35
I think too often we assign value to Jesus' words, we recite the verses, and we preach sermons on the topics without ever living them out. We let the words of Jesus lead us when it's convenient, then "pray about it" when He says something we don't necessarily agree with.

Don't read Stumbling Souls: Is Love Enough? unless you want to be challenged. It will make you take a look at what you believe about tangible love. It forced me to ask myself the question "where is the line between listening to somebody and emotionally being there for them, and physically helping them, whether with money or other means?" I'm not sure I've arrived at an answer to that question, and I know that this book provided the catalyst for me to ask that question in the first place, and that's a good place to start.

The words of Chris Plekenpol hold a weight to me that is hard for others to understand. Chris is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and is an experienced executive officer in the 82nd Airborne, as well as a combat company commander in the 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq. Chris took many of the same steps that I'm taking now. He went through many of the same emotions I'm going through now. And he made it.

Chris gives me hope. He give me hope that I can make it these next four years, then nine years, then 12 years, then maybe more. He gives me hope in his belief in Jesus, and that God is sovereign. He gives me hope in his acknowledging that "comfortable Christianity" is really "complacent Christianity" and that there has to be more.


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