A few days ago, I attended a fund-raising event for Siloam, a non-profit, primary medical care organization in Nashville. They have worked tirelessly for 20 years serving the underserved and marginalized in Davidson County, Tennessee. While their primary focus has been the burgeoning immigrant and refugee population of middle Tennessee, of late they have taken on many of the general population that are uninsured. It is an amazing organization, doctors, nurses, PA’s and NP’s that work sacrificially for far, far less money than they could garner in the open market, to provide healthcare to a group of people that, it seems, the rest of the world has forgotten.
I was there because my daughter-in-law, Allison had been invited to speak. (She killed it, by the way.) Allison is finishing her training to become a family practice Nurse Practitioner. Her next to the last clinical rotation was at Siloam. She spent weeks there observing, helping, and then doing, the front-line, absolutely crucial, work of treating children, elderly, poor, non-English speaking, all sorts of people who, I’m sure viewed her as an angel come down to rescue them. (We view her the same way.)
As enamored as I was with Allison’s speech, I must confess my heart was more drawn to the tenor and theme of the entire organization. It was summed up by one of their physicians with this phrase, “my life for yours.” He told of how he came to work at Siloam. Told of the long hours, low pay, often grueling work. But he also told of the saved lives, the transformed hearts, the unexpected blessings, the huge smiles. And every once-in-a-while he would punctuate his speech by tapping on his chest and them pointing with his index finger and saying, “my life for yours, my life for yours.” I couldn’t hold back the tears as I heard the stories and listened to that phrase.
It seems to me that this is the call, not just of Siloam, not just of non-profits and NGO’s all over the world, but of us, all of us who call ourselves Christ followers. Truly, isn’t that the central message of the one we purport to imitate? Isn’t that exactly what He did and told is to do? Remember when He was questioned by His followers about the outcome of all His earthly ministry? He said, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely.” (John 10:18) And then later, while the little band of followers were huddled nervously in the Upper Room, He explained their mission to them, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friend.” (John 15:13) And just in case they wondered who their friends were, He told the story of the Good Samaritan, the outcast foreigner who sacrifices his own “stuff” for the sake of a beaten, broken, traveler that he has never met. I can just see Jesus, after every encounter, every miracle, every feeding of the poor, or healing of the sick, tapping His chest, pointing at the crowd with His index finger and saying, “My life for yours.”
We kind of try to do that at Branches, but we often forget why we exist. At least I do. I start worrying about budgets and bills, who’s been tracking up the lobby floor, how we are going to get the Christmas party done, and I forget that we are really about ‘”my life for yours.” I start getting territorial, making sure nobody is moving the stuff on my desk, wondering who is in my parking place, (that’s just an illustration. I don’t have a parking place.) And before long I am petty, and paltry, and parsimonious, and completely oblivious to the original call, “my life for yours.”
Maybe that is true where you live. You don’t have to work for a non-profit, or be a professional minister to share, (and forget) the same call. In your home, at your work place, in your church, your community, it still seems to me that Jesus says, “give it up, lay it down, sacrifice, be a servant.” And it still seems to me that we forget. We focus on electing our candidates and elevating our status instead of surrendering our power and laying down our lives. We seek to attract the crowd and boost our Facebook following rather than go out to the lost and be a follower of Him. We live, it seems, “my life for me” rather than “my life for yours.”
Now here’s the thing, this “my life for yours” idea is not just about doing some good things every so often, throwing a little money in the offering plate, attending a non-profit banquet, (although the RLMO banquet next Thursday would be a good place to start.) No, this is a life-style, a call and a challenge to dedicate every step, every breath that we take from here on out, to doing what Jesus did and asks us to do, to lay down our lives for our friends, even those friends that we do not know and do not like. Simply, it is living out the Good News of Jesus in every aspect of my life, from here on.
This is where our power comes from. We were not put here to be militant, to march and protest and argue our adversaries into submission. We weren’t called to rant on Facebook, or rally around the ballot box. We weren’t called to carry placards, chant political slogans, and lock arms to protect our freedoms. I’m not against those things, (well, I am against the ranting on Facebook,) but that is not where our power lies. Our power lies in turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, doing unto others as we would have them do to us. Our power lies in living like Jesus, sacrificially, selflessly, as a servant. Our power lies in our unexplainable, unimaginable, unequivocal willingness to lay down our lives for others in the Name of the One who laid down His life for us.
Something stirred in me a few days ago at Allison’s speaking event. I sat there in my tears and committed to do better, to try harder, to be more intentional. Now, I don’t imagine I will change the world today. I probably won’t sway the elections, change the divisiveness of our nation, or stop the shootings at mosques, synagogues, and churches. But chances are I will run in to one or two people today that I can’t help. Maybe I’ll just stop and hold the door for an old man. Maybe I’ll help a lady in the grocery store pick up a case of water. Maybe I’ll tell the disinterested millennial, behind the counter at MacDonald’s that I really appreciate the work he is doing. Maybe they will notice. Maybe they won’t. But if they look back, I think I will tap on my chest, point at them with my index finger and whisper, “my life for yours.”