Beauty

Last night in men’s group, we were talking about what a serving community looks like. After talking about servanthood and working our way around the topic, just before we finished, I asked a guy if he had any thoughts. He had been quiet the entire evening. When he spoke, I was hanging on every word.

He said that it all boils down to seeing the value in whom you serve. It is about assigning more value in those you serve than in yourself. That does not mean self-debasement, because I am valuable, he said. It’s just about valuing others more than yourself.

He went on and spoke about Jesus. Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the One who made all things, and for whom all things exist, considered His creation more valuable than Himself, and humbled Himself as a servant, even unto death on the Cross.

James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful Community writes, “It is a matter of seeing the beauty and worth of a person that increases our desire to serve.” He goes on to say, “The core narrative we choose to live by will determine our behavior — my needs first or your needs first.”

We are ALL His creation and are ALL beautiful treasures… the apple of His eye and those worth dying for. James Bryan Smith re-crafted a prayer by Macrina Wiederkehl to say:

“O God, help me see the truth about those I meet today — no matter how beautiful they are.”

Amen.

Worth It

I can still remember where I was on September 11th, 2001, as I’m sure you can. I remember a lot of things about that day: the stunningly beautiful, clear blue cloudless skies, how I discovered it happened, prayer at church at noon, being glued to the radio at work listening, and then, later, the TV watching in horror and disbelief. It was a day that changed the world, to be sure… and that’s an understatement.

I also can still remember my reaction. Folks were debating how the United States should respond. Strike back immediately, carpet-bombing, plan a war, institute sanctions, etc. There were voices coming from everywhere, and I’m sure the choices that then-President George W. Bush made were excruciatingly tough. We know the decisions that were made and events that ensued. But I wasn’t so sure that was right course.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so thankful for our military men and women who serve selflessly to protect our freedom and way of life around the world. Thousands have paid the ultimate price. Thousands more are still paying the price from the wounds they suffered. “Thank you” is not enough.

It is a hard thing to love. It is especially hard to love those who don’t love me back, or who, in fact, hate me back. It is hard to love those who don’t even say, “Thank you.” It is hard to love those who don’t even pay attention to me. I tend to love only those who love me in return, or at least pay attention to me. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that I tend to love only those who think I’m worth something.

That is how loving others begins: by assigning worth to them. The sobering thought is that they (whoever “they” are) are worth as much as I am. That includes the guy standing by the offramp, looking for a handout. That includes the homeless guy up in Washington D.C. asleep on a park bench with a newspaper over his face. That includes the pedophile I heard about on the 6 o’clock news. And that includes those that inflict damage and horror in my life and in others’ lives, either by the words they say, the things they do, or even the bombs they set off.

Jesus thinks they are worth dying for. Jesus thinks I am worth dying for. Jesus thinks you are worth dying for. They are, I am, and you are treasures to Jesus. That is how love and service begins for me: by trying to develop the eyesight of Jesus and seeing the beauty and worth of the lives around me, and then putting that love into action by serving them. Love isn’t love unless it is accompanied by service.

But I can’t do this. I simply can’t. Without God’s help, that is. And I fail at this. Every. Day. I fail. I need more of Jesus.

The world needs more of Jesus.