Monday, July 10, 2006

Living today

John Bunyan

"You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you."
--John Bunyan

This quote greets me every time I walk into my local YMCA for a session on the weights. It hangs on the wall, a 2' x 4' placard just above the leg press. And it has haunted me for years. When I first read this, I thought to myself, "What a challenge. Do I live up to this?" But, as time has passed and I have continued to be confronted by this quote, I find myself asking if I have reacted to this challenge or if I have merely acknowledged it. This quote has gone from a passing notice to an idea that fills my mind. I do not go a single day without contemplating this challenge to action.

Why do these words haunt me so? It is easy to say that I live up to this challenge, but as yet I do not believe in my heart that I have even begun to act in such love toward others. A few months ago I raised this point in a small group discussion and my wife's response to my self-doubt (which was the same response as all the ladies present) was that I constantly act for my wife and my daughter, my friends and family, showing them love and kindnesses that they can never repay. My feeling on this, which was echoed by all the men present, was that while I do do these things, I also receive something back - the love and companionship of Erin and Tabitha, the favor returned for a favor given. I may not be payed back in kind, but I am repayed through the continuing relationship. What I doubt in these acts of giving is my own selflessness, which I perceive as the heart of John Bunyan's quote. Do I act truly selflessly in anything? That is the question that hangs on my heart. That is what haunts me.

How do I justify my own actions when I compare them to the challenges that Jesus gave in the Beatitudeses? Am I merciful? Do I seek to make peace with and between my brothers? Can I admit to serving Christ through serving His creation, as in Matthew 25? Am I feeding the hungry? Am I clothing the naked? Do I minister to the sick and imprisoned? And what of Paul's challenge in Romans 13:8 "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law." (NIV) To be perfectly honest, I can say that I try to feed and clothe the needy. I have always felts called to minister through encouragement to those who need such. What Bunyan's quote stirs in me is not guilt over inaction, but the question of whether I do all that Jehovah has called me to, or do I do just enough to allay my conscience?

As to the question of living today, I believe that many days I would find myself without a pulse. Perhaps the challenge Bunyan throughs out is a bit too exacting, in the specification of helping those who may never help you. But, even when I loosen the stricture to be simply acting to build up, encourage and love those around me - which is what God's love for us compels us to do - I find that I still fall short. So many days I sleepwalk, never living the gospel and I am challenged to wake up.

"The world is sleeping in the dark,
That the church can't fight, cause it's asleep in the light,
How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed,
Jesus rose from the grave, and you, you can't even get out of bed,
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead, come on, get out of your bed."

Keith Green, Asleep in the Light

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where is this quote from? I can't find a valid reference anywhere. Write to baptyterian(nospamplease)

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