Where is The Oasis?!
2017. What a year it’s already been...
With all of the political and social unrest, with all the human suffering from natural disasters or senseless violence, with the threat of nuclear war seeming to creep ever closer towards fruition.....we’ve all heard the plea from friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, and the media to be “good people because the world needs more of them.” Peace, unity, love, kindness... We all feel their scarcity. We all want more of their presence.
But, when we are honest, I don’t think it’s too hard to admit: The world is broken. Human hearts are dark.
This isn’t just a pessimistic view that things are bad and can’t get better. This is simply realizing that the best we humans can do in our pursuit of love and unity is to love those who can give us something in return.
You see it everywhere, in every walk of life and social strata.
Mothers attend play dates with other mothers not because they care so deeply about the children, but because their own offspring get a chance to socialize with other children, play with different toys than what’s at home. And the mothers can “get out of the house,” exchange baby stories and advice, each getting their chance to “have the floor.”
Friends attend BBQs for the social interaction and the good food.
On the rare occasion that a neighbor helps with a home repair or yard work, it’s to “return a favor.” Most “charitable giving” is done for recognition, “a pat on the back.”
Friends and family members exchange gifts based on who gave them a gift last year or who is expected to give them a gift this year.
Mostly we live isolated from one another by choice, coveting our personal space and family or tv time. “I’d love to meet you for coffee but not when my favorite show is on.”
Most are content to wave from across the parking lot or from the “safe distance” of their driveway.
It seems every “act of kindness” or “coming together” that you encounter is tinged with a selfish motive—“I get SOMETHING out of this.” The limiting factor, our ceiling, for truly reaching what we long for (love, peace, community) is our own selfishness.
However, I have seen something very different. I have lived in a place where this “ceiling” doesn’t exist. I have witnessed a place where the “norm” is not kind acts tainted with selfish motives, but instead a daily life and culture marked by a love that is selfless and pure. A kind of love I can only describe as from heaven, a God-love.
It was during the years that I spent as part of a church (defined biblically) that I saw this kind of love lived out by hundreds of people every day of the week.
Relationships weren’t built around a “mutually beneficial exchange.” Rather, people everyday, as a way of life (not because of a date marked on a calander), quietly chose to give away their “me-time,” their “vacation money,” their sleep, their hobbies to help friends and neighbors. To be in the mundane, gritty details of life.
I know it’s hard to imagine. For me, it’s even harder to describe a unity and love so rare on this planet, a unity and love that can only come from heaven. But, I know what I have experienced.
Such love can only take root and be expressed by lives that have given up on trying to preserve a life that no one can keep in the end anyway. People who have let go of trying to stay in control.
God himself is love. If we truly want what we say we want—to experience and express the love, peace, and community this world desperately needs—we should look with fresh eyes at the one who Himself is love and take to heart everything He has to say.
The church is indeed where heaven touches earth. It’s not just a “pie in the sky dream.” There exists true lampstands that don’t just wear Jesus’ name but actually DO express His power and love. A place not confined by the walls and ceiling and laws of fallen humanity.
A friend of mine once defined love as “it doesn’t matter what happens to me.” That’s the kind of love I want to live out. No strings attached, no safety net.... The kind of love that gives away our most precious resources of time, money, energy, hobbies, comfort for the sake of another without any thought of “what’s in it for me?”
That’s the kind of love I think we are all clamoring for-not more of the status quo.
Like an oasis in a dying world, Jesus’ church is testament to the fact that Jesus is our Answer and Hope today, as He always has been.