Having a new baby in the family encourages all of your girlfriends to share their delivery stories. One recently described a long labor without an epidural, several setbacks along the way, and a few stern conversations between her mother and the L&D nurses. She began to hum “Jesus Loves Me” during one such conversation. Then came a moment of peace in the midst of pain, as her mom and her girlfriend began to sing along with her humming. Soon all three of them were singing. The doctor arrived just at that moment and stopped to listen.
The next day, after baby had been safely delivered, the doctor returned and told my friend that in all of his years of practice, he thought he had seen it all. But walking in on the three of them singing “Jesus Loves Me” was a new and wonderful experience. He thanked her for that special moment, and she replied, “You don’t understand, Dr. Gray. In that moment, I was pretty sure that Jesus was the ONLY one who loved me.”
Things can get pretty tense in the delivery room! This story made me laugh out loud. As my wonderful preacher and colleague recently said, “Birth is messy.” New things, new ideas, new programs, the beginning of relationships, start-up businesses, etc. often are birthed in chaos and mess before order comes along. This is especially true in institutions, where change is highly resisted, often resented, and can result in pain and trauma for those involved. The church is no exception to this.
As the Body of Christ for the world, we know what we are called to be. The mandate is clear:
Matthew 28 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Things would be pretty simple if we could just stick to that, but we live in a complex world and are facing painful and complicated decisions. And Lord knows, we like to over-complicate what is already complicated.
The challenges that face us are not the same challenges that the early church dealt with. Technology, the proliferation of secular thinking, global catastrophes, lack of inclusion, injustice, terrorism, polarized politics….there is so much more to this charge of “go, make, baptize, and teach” than ever before.
On the other hand, the early Christians faced persecution and death, so there was that.
While the commission has not changed, the world into which we are called has. We have changed and are changing, have created and are creating, have listened and are listening to the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit, and we are trying very, very hard to get it right.
Issues are deeply complicated.
Change is painful.
Birth is messy.
But in the midst of it all, Jesus loves us.
He may be the only one…but that is enough.
If we can turn down the volume on our personal and political rhetoric and turn up the message that Jesus Loves Us, something wonderful might be birthed. Delivery rooms are made for that purpose: to deliver LIFE. Knowing and teaching others that Jesus loves us MUST carry the day, regardless of the messiness of our surroundings.
Jesus loves me! He who died,
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little children in.
When we proclaim the love of Jesus for all the little children of the world…the “red and yellow, black and white” children…that is when we glorify God. Letting his little children in, which means letting ALL his little children in, is the call that unites us in this messy business. Yes, Jesus loves us. The Bible tells us so.
Now go and tell someone who needs to hear it today.
One of two. Thanks be to God.