“Short Time” is a term in wrestling when there’s little time left – usually 10, 15 seconds or less – whether at the end of a period or match. Wrestlers know when they hear coach yell “short time” it’s time to focus on what’s important, whether you’re ahead or behind in the match. These “Short Time” devotionals will be just that – brief reflections, focusing in on something of importance when it comes to faith and life.
My wife just got back from a 10-day trip in Israel and Palestine. It’s great to have her back, but it’s been even greater to hear about her experiences on the trip. While she appreciated seeing parts of the land, what moved her most was the tragic reality of the Zionist Jews’ mistreatment of the Palestinian people – some horrific stories of just how ugly some human beings treat other human beings, and justify it in their minds.
She heard this great sermon on her last day in country, while worshipping at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem. You can read the sermon here. What struck me about it was that the focus was shifted from concern of the self to concern for the other. God certainly is in control of any real, hopeful change. Yet God’s call is to be concerned about the mistreatment of others, and to be concerned about saying something about it, actively resisting that which mistreats and abuses others.
That seems so foreign to culture in the United States. We’re preoccupied with ourselves. Individualism is the center of our universe. Even our faith takes this shape – how many sermons did you hear this weekend that addressed the plight of the individual, their needs and wants? I know I was guilty of this in my own preaching and other pastors were too as I read and watched their sermons online. Why are we so hesitant to preach on the concern for others? And even if we do, why do we always turn it back on the individual’s concern?
It bothers me, and maybe it should bother you too. The fact of the matter is that Christian faith is odd, because it says to us that when we are concerned for others, with little or no regard for ourselves, we strangely receive an immeasurable amount of joy back. We don’t look away from the needs and cries of others, because that is where God is found, in the “least of these.” Christian faith says that when we turn from preoccupation with ourselves, we become fulfilled in ways greater than we could have imagined.
And as strange as it sounds, I know from experience that it is true. Individualism isn’t a bad thing; but it limits the amount of fulfillment, meaning, and joy we experience in our lives. When we live for others, for things greater than ourselves, those limits disappear and perhaps we gain something greater that truly transforms not just us, but the lives of those around us, those who are flesh and blood just like us.