Not much is worse than investing time, emotion, and resources into something that doesn’t pay off. Like spending days working on an engine, only to have the transmission give out. Parents with small children are familiar with the frustration of cleaning their house, then having it trashed nanoseconds later. Or putting time, financial risk, and great sacrifice into starting a business, only to have a terrifically mismanaged pandemic destroy it.
In each of these examples, a person’s reaction to negative outcomes is rarely positive. Having invested so much in something, we hope to have good outcome.
Jesus invested heavily in Judas, only to be betrayed by him. He healed people, brought dead loved ones back, fed people, and gave them hope. He worked very closely with his apostles for years, only to have them miss the point the entire time he was on earth (Acts 1.6; Mk 8.14-32).
I am grateful that he isn’t like us. He doesn’t give up on us when we mess up (I Jn 1.9). He has immense patience with us (II Pt 3.9; I Tim 1.16). But it isn’t blind acceptance of dysfunction — God is patient with our flaws to give us a chance to change (Rom 2.4). God doesn’t make decisions the same way we do!
From our perspective, humanity was a terrible investment. Jesus invested something we aren’t capable of investing, only to have most of humanity reject him. But he didn’t scrap the car, yell at the kids, or harbor resentment. He gives us his patience, his love, and time. It’s up to us to make the most of those things while we’re here!
“…Cared More About The Lost!” (But, when did I last invite someone to church or invite someone to study the Bible?)
“…Checked On The Sick And Shut In.” (But, when did I last make a call or visit to them?)
“…Was Friendly!” (But, do I talk to, welcome, and make feel at home visitors and more than my close circle of friends?)
“…Did A Better Job With The Singing.” (But, do I sing out, show enthusiasm, and participate with my whole heart?)
“…Invested More In The Youth.” (But, am I doing all I can to help them grow, from my attitude toward the church to my personal investment in them?)
“…Was Active!” (But, do I volunteer when help is needed, prioritizing it over the things of the world?)
“…Was Growing.” (But, how invested am I in being an ambassador for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20?)
So often, we talk about “the church” in a passive, third-person way. We are critical of her leaders, her activities (or lack thereof), and her members as if we are detached observers. The picture of the early church was of individuals who were personally invested. We are overcome by the consumer mindset of the culture when we sit back and take shots at the perceived shortcomings of our local congregation. Look at the New Testament Christians. Barnabas didn’t fret about how stingy or discouraging the church was; He was generous and encouraging (Acts 4:36-37). Stephen didn’t express his frustration at the church’s lack of courage and conviction; He literally preached himself to death (Acts 6-7). Dorcas didn’t wring her hands at how uncaring and detached the church was; She continually did deeds of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36). They may have been extraordinary in their actions, but they were just “regular members of the church.” They were the church. They didn’t sit in judgment of her. Why? They were too busy working to build her up. When I am tempted to play armchair analyst, I should begin with my own faithfulness and involvement. There is so much the Lord expects me to do to help the church. My investment may cause others to be grateful and excited to be a part of the church! I can most influence me (2 Cor. 13:5)!
On January 20, 1961, in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he uttered the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Here is the very ending of the address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” If that is true of a citizen’s mindset of a nation, how much more a Christian’s mindset in that holy nation, the church?