Christianity 201

April 12, 2019

An Abandonment of Reputation and An Outpouring of Love

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.
 -Philippians 3:7 (NIV), 8 (NLT).

Today we’re returning to Jon Swanson’s site, 300 Words a Day, and I’m taking two different devotionals and combining them into one, as he connected the dots earlier for his readers.

Being known

…Paul was an amazing scholar. Paul was a remarkably religious person. Paul was passionate about his devotion to protecting the true obedience to God. He was so devoted that he arrested people who were disobedient. He was working so hard to make God happy, to satisfy God’s expectations, God’s obligations. To defend God’s dignity and reputation.

Until it became clear to him that he was the one who was disobedient. Jesus appeared to him and said, “Why are you persecuting me.?”

I sometimes talk with people who say, “God couldn’t forgive what I’ve done.” I say, “Have you killed Christians?” That usually stops them. “No,” they say. “I haven’t.” “Paul did,” I tell them, “And he was forgiven and embraced by God and lived a life of service and devotion.”

Paul realized that his success had come working against God. Paul realized that God didn’t want his hard work. Paul realized that God wanted him. Relationship with him. Conversation with him. Reconciliation to him.

God wanted Paul to know him. To know that the love of God isn’t measured out in scoops the size of our prayers, one act of God for each 100 or 1000 or million words from us. Paul realized that the love of God was measured out, poured out really, in the resurrection and the death of Christ. That love drew Paul in.

Paul made it his life’s work to abandon his own reputation-seeking. Paul made it his life to live in the middle of God’s love for him, God’s love for us, God’s work for us.

He was devoted to God, like a baby is devoted to her mother. But unlike a whining, helpless baby. Like a person rescued from death is devoted to the rescuer. Wanting to know how to help, how to serve, how to care. But unlike a rescuer who is called to be a rescuer, like an EMT. A friend and mentor and provider and lover who rescues you at great personal cost, for the sake of having you close, helping you grow, drawing you into the family.

If we understood the graciousness, the opportunity, the gift, to be more than nothing, to be a pauper welcomed as royalty, to be a reject welcomed as family, we might, like Paul, reject what we thought mattered and do everything possible to learn about the new house, the new kingdom, the new relationship, the rescuer.

Wasteful love

…I talked about Paul’s abandonment of reputation-seeking in response to Jesus’ invitation to relationship. It’s a story related to an act of devotion that happened less than a decade before Paul’s decision.

There was a party to celebrate the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus was the special guest. Martha was hosting. Lazarus was there, talking to Jesus.

In the part of the dinner when people were talking and listening to Jesus and having a good time, Mary got up from her place and got a container of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet and, rather than using a towel to clean it up, got so low to the ground that she used her hair.

Judas gave voice to the thoughts of at least some others: “Is this the best use of money?”

Because it wasn’t. Even if you weren’t an embezzler, this was a poor use of money. The perfume could have been sold. Mary could have earned a million points for serving.

If the use of money is to earn points.

But what if Mary was grateful to the only man who ever treated her with respect, treated her as a person, listened to her, wept with her, defended her, and then raised her brother from the dead. What if she was so grateful that being reasonable and earning points was the last thing on her mind. What if showing her love in the most extravagant way she could think of was to go to her room, get the perfume, and pour it out?

Her savings. Her assets. Her treasure. As Judas said, this was a year’s wages, poured out in service of Jesus.

A remarkable action of love.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking God loves our extravagant imperfect devotion more than he expects our hesitant attempts at perfection.

Rather than worrying about how much we should pray or read or help the poor, what if we forgot what we did and what we had to appease God for. And what if we loved extravagantly right now.

What if.


NLT Mark 14:6-9 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”