The Gift of Life (Christian, Love Ain't Safe)
The room was white, the air had a slight chill to it, and all around me nurses, doctors, and surgeons prepared their instruments. A med student from KU was holding a mask over my face that provided fresh oxygen. The anesthesiologist to my left had begun the process of putting me under. The only thing I could think to do at the moment was repent of any possible sins I hadn’t brought before the Lord, and prepare to give my body over to the skillful hands of the men and women in that room. It only felt like a matter of minutes until I was laying on a hospital gurney, babbling like a fool, listening to my wife and nurses laugh at me as I lay in the recovery room. The surgery was over, my kidney was gone from my body, and sitting in its new home.
The Apostle John wrote, “We know love by this, that He gave His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn. 3:16) That is a high calling to love. Yet, it is given by John as the objective standard by which all forms of love are gauged. It’s not exemplary Christianity, it’s mere Christianity. It is the kind of love that has been given to all born-again believers in Christ (see 1 Jn. 4:7-8). A love for one another that is willing even to die, if that’s what we are called to do in a given moment.
Thankfully John recognized that love is not only shown by death. After delivering to us the standard, John gives us a practical example of how this love works itself out, “whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17). Notice the scenario. There are two believers. One man is apparently in desperate need of something (food, clothing, shelter, perhaps a bodily organ). Another Christian is present, witnessing their brother’s need, and it so happens that they have what that fellow believer needs so desperately. Yet, instead of feeling compassion for them, they close off their heart and keep for themselves what they could have shared. John says of that person, the gift of God’s love that is provided to all believers, by Christ, through the Spirit, is obviously not in that person. How could it be, if they are to act in such a cold and calloused way? The love that God gives to all believers is not a sentimental love of mere words and feelings, though it certainly contains those things. The love that God gives is the kind that is driven to action. To help, regardless of the danger or socially deemed worthiness of the individual who needs the gift.
Six days have passed since Jeremy and I went into surgery. I entered with two healthy kidneys. He entered with two that were pretty much dead. When we left surgery, I retained one healthy kidney, and he possessed what his body could not produce on its own. A healthy, well-functioning kidney.
It took about two years for this all to happen. Jeremy, who deals with a number of unfortunate health issues, was informed that his kidney’s were dying and he would need to go onto dialysis soon. I learned about this as Randy, Jeremy’s dad, was requesting prayer for his son. From the moment he mentioned the possible need for a kidney, I couldn’t uproot the thought that maybe I should see if I was a possible candidate for donation. It was a long while before things reached that point. Almost a year passed before the search for a donor even began. With only my wife’s knowledge, I had my blood drawn and sent in for testing. We had talked and prayed about it for a long time, and both of us just felt like it was the responsible thing to do. When the tests came back showing that I was a candidate we felt like that was God’s confirmation. I started exercising to reach the appropriate weight, I gave up cigars (bummer), and entered into a series of tests (both physical and mental) to see if I was fit for donation. I was quite relieved when everything came back clear. The surgeon at the original hospital quit, which postponed things a bit, but I think that was all part of the Lord’s doing. He had some other stuff to do in me that may have been hindered if things hadn’t gone the way they did. After it was confirmed by the doctors that I’d be donating to Jeremy, we informed his parents, Randy and Connie, and after the date was set we let Jeremy know. To say he was excited would be an understatement.
I recognize not everyone will be given the opportunity I was. Though there are a lot of opportunities if you go and look. I also know, it may not be God’s will for everyone to do what I did. That’s not the point I’m wanting to make. What I see among many Christians is something that does need to be addressed. Too often we are asking the question “Why?” I had a number of people ask me, “Why are you doing this?” Then they’d list their concerns, “you have a wife and kids to take care of.” This is absolutely true, but didn’t Jesus say, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Mt. 19:29-30). Jesus wasn’t promoting an irresponsible abandoning of our families, but making the point clear that following Him may cost us those things. Our first priority as believers is following Him. If we are faithful to do that, He will take care of the rest.
So many believers miss out on opportunities because they play it safe. The opportunity to pray for a coworker arises, but to keep the job safe, the Christian keeps their mouth shut. A student needs desperate guidance in their life, but out of the fear of repercussions the teacher keeps what the Word says to themselves. An orphanage in Mexico is in need of volunteers, but news of fighting on the boarder, though hundreds of miles from where they’ll be, cancels the mission trip. Lost people all around the world are without God’s Word, while we have extra Bibles collecting dust on our shelves. Will we help them get the scriptures? No, we have other things to do, like Facebooking and yelling at liberal news figures on our T.V.’s. You get the point.
Christianity in America is safe. Probably too safe to be honest. Yet, the bible shows us that following God in obedience isn’t safe. Read the scriptures, we will face danger, or at least you should in one form or another if you are in fact following Christ (if not physical, then emotional, or social, or political, or career, whatever). Christ set for us the standard. Obedience is love in action. Christ loved us enough that He volunteered His life in exchange for our lives. That’s incredible. That’s amazing. That’s rightfully awe-inspiring. That is the objective standard by which all believers acts of love are to be measured. The action may be as simple as changing your kids diaper for the 1 millionth time, but if it’s done with the same life-giving love that Christ demonstrated for us, then it is a gift empowered by God and pleasing to Him. If Christ would risk so much for us, then let us be willing to risk for others.
So, the next time an opportunity arises for you to do something, but you’re just not quite sure about it. Pray, seek the Lord and a couple wise counselors. If the feeling is still there, and you can’t shake it. Then maybe it’s time to take a dangerous leap of love. Love is not safe, it has never been.
So, let’s stop asking “Why?” And let’s start searching the scriptures and ask, “Why not?”