Following Jesus is not a Buffet

What do Indian food and Syrian refugees have in common? I’ll tell you.

I (mostly) love Indian food. There’s this buffet in Canton that I go to once in a while, and it’s the perfect way to eat Indian food. I can take as much chicken curry as I want, and walk right by the weird vegan……thing……they have at the far end of the line. I can get extra naan bread and just a little bit a few other things I like to eat with it, but only a bite or two before I’ve had enough. I can take what I want and leave what I don’t.

Buffets are great (* – Golden Corral is the exception to this rule) for eating. But conceptually, it doesn’t work in other areas of life. You can’t do that whole buffet thing at work, only doing what you like and not doing what you don’t. You’d get fired in no time.

You can’t do that in your family. Lots of people try, and it always ends in broken homes.

And you can’t treat following Jesus like a buffet. Full disclosure up front, just so there’s no confusion: I am the guiltiest of the guilty. I love the grace offered to me, but not always the generosity required of me. I love getting unconditional love, but not always giving it. I’ll take all the mercy I can get, but I’d rather hold a grudge than forgive.

So what about Syrian refugees? It really is about more than just that one issue. You can have your opinion on whether or not they should be welcomed into whatever state you call home. I have my opinion on that as well. And, no offense, I don’t care what your opinion is, just like I’m sure you don’t care about mine.

What I do care about, and what really bothers me, is that I’ve seen and heard a lot of professing “Christians” voicing their opinion without showing any compassion. People who claim to love Jesus who have no empathy for the tens of thousands of people who are literally fleeing for their lives.

And we (I am included) are guilty of this in many, many situations. I’m admittedly not good at loving the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-40).

But here’s the thing: Jesus loved me enough to die for me, to rescue me, when I was His enemy (Romans 5:8) and had literally nothing to offer in return, so my only possible response is to honor Him by unconditionally loving others who have nothing to offer me. Who impose on my comfort or my way of life. Who are needy. Who are undesirable or unpopular or unlovely.

You too.

Go back and let that word sink in: enemy. Far from God. Opposed. Not just a foreigner…an enemy. That’s when Jesus loved me. Do I do the same? Do you?

This isn’t actually about refugees. That’s just an indicator of a deeper issue. It’s a symptom of a greater sickness.

Many of us are guilty of blaming God for what we don’t like in life. We treat God like a buffet. We want to pick and choose what we get or don’t get in life. So the parts of following Him that we’re comfortable with, we accept. But when following Him is uncomfortable or requires something of us that we don’t want to give, we check out.

That is the definition of not following Jesus. Partial obedience is disobedience. You can disagree with that if you want…you’re allowed to be wrong. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but that’s not my truth…that’s God’s truth, so take it up with Him. I honestly don’t like it any more than you do, because it means I’m guilty.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We can’t be halfway in it, which means we can’t be consumers. Following Jesus, by definition, doesn’t allow for that. If we’re going to seek him wholeheartedly, we have to accept the whole Gospel, which requires us to have compassion for those we aren’t naturally inclined to love. We don’t get to pick and choose who we love based on how comfortable with are with it.

I feel like this post is rambling a little bit, but I’m not going to go back and edit it. I’m not even going to proofread it, so who knows how many typos are up there. I’ll probably read this tomorrow and see 100 things I want to change, but I don’t want to be tempted to soften or water down anything. These are just some thoughts that are on my mind tonight (I wrote about Indian food because it just happens to be what I’m hungry for right now). It’s a bit of a transparent confession of my own shortcomings, and a bit of a plea for us, the Church, to do better.

Start here with me: pray for the refugees. Or heck, fill in the blank with whoever it is that it’s hard for you to love. I don’t know, maybe you have a neighbor who likes to dress their cat up in weird outfits. Definitely pray for them.

Ask God to help you stop seeing issues and start seeing people. It’s a lot easier to love people when you don’t see them attached to issues.

Pray for compassion. That’s what I’m praying for tonight. That the parts of our hearts that are hard, that are keeping us from seeking Jesus wholeheartedly, will soften. Then we can truly love as Jesus loves us: unconditionally, without reservation, and with total abandon.

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