I remember the first time I was accused of being a Pharisee. It was painful, but true.
It was over 20 years ago now. I was living in a college dorm at Louisiana State University. At the time the legal drinking age was 18, and girls were permitted to come and go as they pleased. The resulting environment was toxic, as you can imagine.
My focus was to not be like those people. I was determined to pass all my classes, to not get mixed up with drugs and alcohol, to treat women respectfully, and to grow in my relationship with the Lord. It wasn’t until the end of that year did I realize I had missed many big opportunities to love my neighbors in the midst of it all.
My high school friend and then college dorm mate, Keith, let me know in no uncertain terms that my focus was on my ‘right’ behavior, and not on knowing Jesus and loving those around me. He was right. I had been fooled into thinking that I wasn’t like them. Instead of loving my new college friends in a way that showed them a physical, visible picture of a loving God, I looked down my nose at them.
Fast forward all these years later and Keith is still doing what he does so well; meeting people where they are and loving them there.
Back in high school and college he was the life of the party. If Keith was there, you knew there would be much more laughter, that the music would probably be a little louder, and that all of our friends would come out of the wood work to be a part.
When Jesus returned to the city where he had grown up, I can’t imagine the looks on peoples’ faces when he opened up a scroll and read out of the book of Isaiah…
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
Jesus came to set us free. He came to give us Life. All around us there are captive, dead people.
Maybe God has not gifted you in such a way that you will be the next Matt Chandler, Francis Chan or Mark Driscoll preaching awe-inspiring sermons. Maybe you will never be known for your worship music, or the books you write.
Regardless, God has created you perfectly, and wants to include you in his redeeming work in this world in a very specific way.
Sure, you might never be famous, but maybe you – like Keith – can throw parties. If so, I’d encourage you to walk in your freedom and help others find theirs.
Do you love your neighbors?