A few years ago during the war in Iraq, my family was living not far from the plains of Nineveh, operating a small business. We were living in a small collective near the Tigris River. One night during the hot summer, my oldest child burst into our bedroom where we were peacefully sleeping and said, “Daddy, I hear lots of people shooting guns outside.” As I awoke from my sleep, I could hear gunfire from AK47’s near our house. I had my family sit with their backs against the wall, underneath our bedroom window, so that if a bullet came through the window they would not be hit. This was rather traumatic for our children. It was also traumatic for an adult. I did not know what was happening. I did not know if the insurgents had moved into our village, or if there was an ethnic battle taking place. Regardless, I was uncomfortable with the situation. I was afraid, and neither I, nor my family, felt safe in those moments in the middle of that night. These are some of the things that I want to discuss: fear and comfort and the way they impact me being obedient to a compassionate God.
Blessed to be a Blessing
The median wage for workers in the U.S. is about $48,000. If most readers of this blog earn more than that, most of us earn more than 98% of the world’s population. From the perspective of the entire world, we are blessed.
Here is more data: 6.5% of the world has a bachelor’s degree. That means if you have graduated from university, you have attained a level of education that about 6.8 billion people have not attained. Again, from my perspective, we are all very blessed. But to what end? Genesis 12 tells us that Abraham was blessed for a purpose, not to attain a standard of living or so that he could have a comfortable lifestyle, but to be a blessing to others.
Trade Purpose for Fear and Compassion for Comfort
So, what does this have to do with fear and comfort? If you were to watch the news today regarding ISIS, Iraq, and Syria, you would think this is a religious war of Islam against Christianity, of Muslims against Christians. Yet, we are witnessing an equal opportunity terrorist group. They kill Muslims, Christians, and Yezidis – anyone that does not conform to their own radical, narrow view of Islam. This is on the news every night because fear sells. And a lot of fear sells a lot. Unfortunately, Christians consume this and we trade our purpose for fear, and our compassion for comfort.
Are We like Jonah?
If we were to read the book of Jonah, which took place in the same place where ISIS is active today, we would see that he struggled with fear and comfort, too. First he fled, and then after going to them he found a comfortable place on a hill overlooking the city so that he could watch God destroy them. He was upset when he heard that the people repented, and God was gracious and compassionate. This picture of Jonah being more concerned about his comfort rather than having compassion for the people who did not know God convicts me. Are we, like Jonah, fearful and more concerned about our comfort than with the fate of the people of the world around us? Would we rather see Muslims destroyed than see the compassion of God extended to them?
All Work is Sacred
So now what? What can we do? We have been blessed in order to be a blessing, to be about what God is about. First, we need to be willing to go to these “fearful” places and extend the compassion of God. Second, to do this, we need to change the way we think. We do not need people to leave their secular skills and go into “full-time ministry”. Whether you are a butcher or a banker or a boom operator your work is full-time ministry. We need to view it as such. We are the people of God, the priesthood of believers. Let’s think like it. Let’s live like it. We need to see all work as sacred and as an opportunity to “go” and bring the compassion of God. We need to go to the difficult places outside of our comfort zone where others are not willing to go, putting following God above our own fear and comfort. So whether you are an artist or a musician, an educator, athlete or business person, you need to work using the knowledge, skills, abilities and passion that God has blessed you with to be a blessing to those who may have never heard of the real Jesus.