I have always been captivated by the overwhelming love displayed by Jesus in the Gospel stories. His desire to intersect with the lives of ordinary people warms me right down to my soul. He also encouraged us, through His teachings and His experiences, that we should do likewise, “greater things you will do because I go to the Father.” So what does that mean to us in the here and now, 2018. Is it possible we have become so comfortable within the limitations of our culture that we have missed out on the intimacy the disciples seemed to enjoy as they invested time being with Jesus?
For 42 years now I have been keenly interested in breaking down our cultural limitations in order to love people through my actions. This is faith AND works! The beauty, is that one is amplified by the other. Great faith begets great works. Think about the Samaritan woman story at the well as told in the gospel of John, chapter four. Jesus, a Jew, having conversation with a Samaritan woman to the point of her giving him a drink from Jacob’s well. The cultural norm of the day would have not allowed that to take place. It would have made the Jew ceremonially unclean. It does not say in the John 4 account, but I can imagine the looks of surprise and maybe revulsion at what Jesus did that day. It occurs to me, the Father loves the idea of breaking with cultural traditions when they get in the way of people experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Last week, Elaine and I were sitting in a board meeting—My beloved and I subscribe to a concept of compound giving, so if we invest in an organization we virtually never just write a check, we actually invest our talents and our time right alongside our money. So this meeting was our way of also investing time in this company. The co-leader of the organization is a delightful woman, and at that time, she was also a new mom. This was our first meeting; pretty formal and organized. Robert’s Rules of Order were observed reviewing books and records, minutes from the last meeting, initiatives and plans to approve for the future, and authorizing activities. Now you would not have expected a bubble of the Kingdom of Heaven to arrive in that kind of setting would you?
As the meeting was about to close up, I reached over and gently touched the co-leader’s right forearm. In a #metoo world, that might be a very inappropriate action; but like the woman at the well, I wanted to engage her in a different conversation. Motivated by compassion, I asked her if she has difficulty relaxing and finding peace. The bubble now fully expanded and touched her in the same way Jesus touched the woman at the well. With tears in her eyes and mouth agape she asked how I could have known that? “Yes, yes I am finding it very difficult to relax these days.” I leaned back in my chair and glanced over at Elaine, she winked. We both surrounded her in prayer and asked for the peace that surpasses all understanding to keep her heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God the Father of all. This was a simple prayer that brought life to a weary woman. It was also a totally unnatural cultural engagement.
It would have been customary to simply close up the board meeting and move on to the next appointment of the day. After all, it was our first meeting and we really didn’t even know the young woman. But if we had simply packed up and moved on, we would have missed another bubble of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our time of prayer inaugurated not just peace for her, but a new depth of relationship with the Father God, and also with us. The beauty of it all is we now get to form a relationship with a wonderful young woman dedicated to a life as a devoted Christ follower.
Breaking cultural norms can create opportunities to connect and relate at deeper levels than we think. The Kingdom of Heaven is closer than we think, and everyone (even a board co-chairman) can experience it repeatedly, and should. I encourage you to focus on anticipating and embracing the work of the Father in your life. You’ll be amazed at the results!
Steve digs deeper into the emotional facet of the Kingdom of Heaven with a young screenwriter who experienced a Bubble of the Kingdom of Heaven for the first time.