As the celebration of Jesus’ birth goes on today, in most of the western nations, I was listening to my iPod, which I always have on ‘shuffle’, and a song I hadn’t heard in a long while came on. Unsurprising I don’t hear it often, as there are 25,000 songs on it….!
The song is one that, when I first heard it, just got hold of me. It’s not a worship song, it’s a ‘CCM’ (Contemporary Christian Music song – the sort we used to listen in the olden days! I can recall the first hearing of it, perhaps more so because it had me in tears, and has never ceased to have the same reaction from me since. It probably came out in the mid-1980’s, and as I look back to that time, pretty much the era when God began me on the journey I’m still on, preaching, praying for, and – with God’s help, loving and caring for, people in the ‘worst’ parts of society. The singer/songwriter, Steve Camp, is not a ‘raving charismatic’ – according to Wikipedia, he ‘retains an orthodox historical Reformed theology, in the tradition of John Owen, Jeremiah Burroughs, Thomas Watson, Dr. D.A. Carson, Dr. R.C. Sproul and the late Dr. Stephen Olford. His musical influences (if you remember those years) are pure gold – Larry Norman, and Keith Green.
As I listened, and cried again, this morning, to ‘Don’t tell them Jesus loves them, until you’re ready to love them too’ , I looked back, even over the last few months, and thanked God that what Steve sang that 30 years or so ago, has become, and is still becoming, my life. I truly do love marginalised people, I love sitting in tiny churches buried deep in the heart of any given country’s poverty zones: and with the drug addicts, alcoholics, the desperately sick and poor, and – yes – the dangerous, the murderers, the cartel people…. Here’s the song:
I think it’s struck home with me even more as, over the past few months (and frequently, over the past 28 years of travelling), I’ve had people tell me that because of what God’s done, I ought to be ‘famous….on huge platforms with huge crowds telling of what God’s doing…. waving my books about for sale at the end of meetings…. demanding big fees and expenses…. on television’. I think just about every one of those ‘suggestions’ to enhance ‘my ministry’ (whatever that truly means!) and my life, and my bank account, makes me turn 180 degrees and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction (though ‘run’ might be a wee bit optimistic right now with the old knees!!).
What HAVE we done, as church, to make success dependent on those ‘attributes’? What HAVE we done when preachers spend 30 minutes before preaching, on their own promotion and fame, and stuff like ‘there are 50 people here God has told to give £10,000 to this ministry’? It happens, believe me, even if you might bot have heard it. What HAVE we done when success is gauged in numbers? We invite the poor TO our church in preference to GOING to them… and then comes the ‘loving them’ bit…
I’m so grateful that God sent Jesus to – primarily – the poor, the sick, the reprobates, the prostitutes, the addicts, the murderers, the helpless & the hopeless. If he’d come to only love the successful, I’d be looking at hell down the barrel of a gun. As it is, the poverty Jesus was born into makes it possible for people like me to identify with him, and follow – as best I can – in his footsteps. And it’s probably the same for you.
Love came down at Christmas….so that we could in turn love the unlovely. Lovely!