“Sometime ago there was a wonderful teacher who celebrated her eightieth birthday. It proved to be a marvelous occasion, highlighted by the presence of a great number of her former students. Apparently, she taught school in one of the worst sections of Baltimore. Before she came to that school to teach, there had been repeated instances of juvenile crime and delinquency. When she began her work at that school, there came a change.
“The change in time became noticeable with so many of her students turning out to be good citizens, men and women of good character. Some became doctors, others lawyers, educators, ministers, honorable craftsmen, and skilled technicians. It was no accident, therefore, that on important anniversaries like her eightieth birthday she was remembered with gratitude and love from a great number of her former students.
“A newspaper got wind of this celebration and sent a reporter to interview her. He asked, among other things, what was her secret that made her teaching so rewarding? She said: ‘Oh, I don’t know. When I look at the young teachers in our schools today, so well-equipped with training and learning, I realize that I was ill-prepared to teach. I had nothing to give but love (James Hewitt, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 316).’”
“I had nothing to give but love.” What a wonderful thought, and how utterly true. Truth is, God calls us to live in ways that show love, give love, or value love. As we read yesterday in Living on the Front Lines, that means we live on the front lines of faith in ways that show the love of God.
our task as Christians
And, we all live on the front lines of faith. All of us face the good and bad of this world every day. Our lives are lived on the front lines of faith because we are the ones charged with carrying the light of Jesus Christ into this dark world. We have this good news to share, and it’s important that we take the time to share what we have been given.
“Our task as [Christians],” Paul Tournier observes, “is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious.”
In living our personal communion with Christ, what we call “Christian faith,” we enjoy a centered and personal relationship with the one who truly makes this life possible.
faith is centered
We know that Christian faith is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. We don’t find a set of beliefs or doctrines or standards or propositions, but Jesus; he is the one to whom the disciples responded. Jesus is the one to whom countless others have responded; and Jesus is the one to whom we have responded. So, we find our lives centered on a person.
faith is personal
Christian faith is personal because it requires a personal response from those who encounter Jesus. A person can accept or reject what is offered in Jesus, but either way the response is personal because Jesus is a living person seeking relationship with us. Our prayers for someone to come to faith are important; the particular environment we created for someone to faith in Jesus is important. But, each and every person faced with the call to faith in Jesus must respond for themselves. No one can do it for them.
every bit of us responds
Now, when we respond, God’s grace requires a response of our total person – heart, mind, soul, and strength. Our response, as such, is not based on our thoughts or feelings, but on God’s gracious commitment to us in Jesus. God has totally committed himself to us in Jesus Christ. That’s the foundation for our faith: God’s radical and gracious commitment to us in Jesus.
love made the difference
That teacher wasn’t so sure what made the difference in those students’ lives – she didn’t think she had “the right stuff.” But she did. She had love. She sowed the seeds of God’s love in the lives of those children diligently and faithfully for years, and their lives bore the fruit of God’s love given through her.
You know, all of us are Christians today because somebody cared enough to share. Now it’s our turn to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we live our lives on the front lines of faith. Let us live our personal communion with Christ is ways to make God’s love contagious; let’s get everybody sick with the love of God.
A text for the table: Acts 18.24-28.
If you want to learn more about faith sharing, try H. Eddie Fox and George E. Morris, Faith Sharing.