Jesus’ Pep Talk
Matthew 10:16,28 I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves… Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus’ pep talk to his disciples prior to sending them out into the world was a little bleak. He sent them out to spread his message but warned them that though they would heal the sick and perform miracles, the world would not embrace them. They would be beaten, persecuted and imprisoned. He told them not to fear the world though. He gave them the gift of perspective and insisted that all the world could do is take their physical bodies. The world could not touch their spirit which will live forever in God’s hands.
As I read this passage, I realized I had come across those words recently in another context. I just finished The Lion and the Lamb, a historical novel about Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch resistance worker, imprisoned by the Nazis for trying to save her Jewish neighbors. * Corrie and her sister Betsy were unjustly imprisoned, starved and abused for their crimes of being obedient to God. Betsy died in Ravensbruck, a prison camp, but not before impressing upon Corrie the same perspective that Jesus gave his disciples. Of Betsy’s death, Corrie later said, When the worst thing happens, in the life of a child of God, the best remains.
Likewise, Paul considered his suffering as a badge of honor. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned and yet, saw it all as something to boast of as it happened in service to God. When faced with death he said, To die is gain. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:21,23).
This perspective is alien to me. I am consumed with me and my comfort. I have a hard time not whining about the cold, work or any number of minor inconveniences. I am so terminally me-focused that Corrie and Paul’s perspective is almost inconceivable.
Jesus insists though, that I am to daily deny self and follow him if I am going to be his follower. Paul, like Jesus, knew that my obsession with self is what leads to my destruction. It is my focus on Christ in that brings me to life. It is a great paradox, that in seeking the gratification of my flesh, I bring about my own demise. It is only in denying my immediate gratification and focusing on God’s will, that I appreciate the authentic life that He grows in me.
Jesus said that, like Corrie and Paul, I am not to focus on the temporal but rather, I am to keep my eyes on him. It is my spirit, not my flesh, which will live forever in God’s hands.
*For full disclosure, The Lion and the Lamb was written by my brother-in-law, Charles Causey, a U.S. Army Chaplain in Washington D.C. It is a book of profound contrasts, telling the story of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch resistance worker, and the story of Albert Speer, a Nazi in Hitler’s inner circle. It is the story of one who followed God and one who followed worldly power. The evil suffered by those obedient to God is chronicled alongside the story of those who perpetrated the same evil.
I do not know history as well as I should, so this was a provocative retelling of a story that I should not forget. This fantastic book can be found on Amazon.