What Love Requires of Me

adoption character family Oct 08, 2018
We are finishing a full Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. Growing up in the US, I never knew that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving in October, we always did it in November, but I have come to love the earlier date. It ends up being a stand alone holiday instead of the beginning of the long holiday run to Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Is it too cliche to say we have so much to be thankful for? But maybe we could follow that thought up with a question: 
How does that gratitude change us? 
I want to tell you a story of how gratitude has changed my life, but I have to set it up a bit. Please bear with me while I give you a little framework. 
I am reading a book right now that should be required reading for everyone who says they are a Christian.
Bold statement right? Let me explain. 
Irresistible is Andy Stanley's new book and here is the synopsis: 
"Once upon a time there was a version of our faith that was practically . . . irresistible. But that was then. Today we preach, teach, write, and communicate as if nothing has changed.  As if “The Bible says it,” still settles it.
It’s time to hit pause on much of what we’re doing and consider the faith modelled by our first-century brothers and sisters who had no official Bible, no status, and humanly speaking, little chance of survival.
What did they know that we don’t?
What made their faith so compelling, so defensible, so irresistible?
Buckle up . . . you’re about to find out. More importantly, Andy will invite you to embrace the version of faith that, against all odds, initiated a chain of events resulting in the most significant and extensive cultural transformation the world has ever seen. A version we must embrace if we are to be salt and light in an increasingly savorless and dark world."
In the book Andy Stanley explains why the early church believers had so much impact on the world around them and why we are increasingly losing our impact on the world around us. 
It is challenging, upending and beautifully convicting. 
He takes us back to those beginning, revolutionary days when the church was basically a group of eyewitnesses telling their stories of who Jesus was, what He did and what He said before His crucifixion and resurrection. 
Jesus life, death and resurrection changed everything. He came to show what love actually looked like. 
It was irresistible. 
This is the message that gripped my life and changed everything all those years ago when I was a teenager. 
It was Jesus, only Jesus. 
I wish I could say it stayed that way. 
Keeping a "Jesus - only", simple faith, takes a lot of work when church gets messy, politics get heated and relationships are destroyed when people make mistakes. 
I agonize at times because I fear that the real message of who Jesus is, gets lost in the clutter of what rules we feel everyone should follow or what political platform or agenda we think he would come to support (hint: Neither. He didn't come to take sides, He came to take over)
Here is the question that Andy Stanley asks in this book: 
What does love require of me? 
Simple right? 
Before we answer, we should pause and remember that love required Jesus to die on a cross. 
Here is a story from the book: 
First-century Christians developed a reputation for taking in and caring for abandoned babies. Infanticide was not only legal in the Roman Empire, in certain circumstances it was considered an obligation. Case in point, Emperor Claudius famously forced his wife Urgulanilla to abandon a baby daughter she conceived with a freed slave. Exposure, as it was sometimes referred to, was not considered murder since technically the child had some chance of survival. If the fates chose for a child to survive, so be it. The fates decided. Parents were guiltless.
It was common practice for mothers to abandon their newborns on the banks of a river, on the edge of a forest, or outside the protective walls of a village. Babies were left to starve, freeze, or be eaten by wild animals. Babies were abandoned for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, suspicion of infidelity, economics, and, as is the case in parts of the world today, gender. A letter dating from some time in the first century illustrates the detached indifference many in Rome had toward newborns. We don’t know who wrote this letter. It appears to be sent by a husband to his wife while he was away on a work assignment: I am still in Alexandria . . . I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it. No discussion. No wait till I get home and we’ll decide. If it’s a girl, expose—not her—but “it.”
Christians rejected and condemned infanticide from the beginning. The Didache, a first-century Christian handbook of sorts, states, “You shall not kill that which is born.” This sentiment was echoed by church fathers and apologists. But early Christians took it a step further. They visited the sites where children were commonly abandoned and took exposed children home to raise as their own. Why? Rescuing abandoned babies isn’t commanded or even commended in the New Testament. Food was scarce and expensive. Homes were small. Babies died all the time. Why would anyone put their own family in jeopardy on behalf of an abandoned child? Christian Scripture didn’t require it. Jewish Scriptures didn’t require it.
First-century Jesus followers were convinced love required it.
Stanley, Andy. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (pp. 237-238). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
You see why the book has me thinking? 
Ok. All of that was to say this...
That story about the babies is exactly why there is a little girl named Emma, sleeping downstairs in her bed right now. Emma is my 9 year old daughter and I would love to tell you how that came to pass. 
Roughly 11 years ago, I was listening to a visiting pastor who told a story very close to the one you just read. "Babies were born and thrown off of bridges because the Romans didn't want them. It was the Christians who waited in boats to catch them and raise them as their own." 
Do you ever listen and pray at the same time? 
In that moment, while I listened,  I also said, "Lord, I want to do that too." 
I will not go in to all the details right now, but that moment set our feet on a path to adoption. 
We did the gruelling work of sitting through classes, getting a home study with a social worker, assembling a book that explained who Shawn and I were so a birth mom would choose us and then we started the anxious wait. 
Adoption is a rollercoaster. 
We had one opportunity that didn't work out. The birth mom decided to keep her baby, as was her understandable right to do. But it was still heartbreaking. 
Another opportunity came and we got back on the ride. 
Our birth-mom did the gruelling work of carrying a baby and then agonizing over what the baby's family should look like. Should she go alone and keep the baby, or find a home with a mom and a dad for the new little one? In the end, this hero of a woman did the hardest thing imaginable....she gave her baby away.

it was what love required of her. 
To bring the baby into our home was what love required of us. 
It was love that brought us together to provide a family for an unrepeatable soul named Emma. 
We, with her birth-mom and the community around us, stand as witnesses that life is sacred and worthy of all the sacrifice and honour we can muster. 
Please do not imagine that we see ourselves as heroes. 
We see ourselves as obedient. 
Extravagant love is logical when it is framed in gratitude. 
When we are grateful, there is room for one more. How could I withhold when I have been given so much?  
Peter and John said it best: 
Acts 3:6 But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”
Here is my translation: I won't focus on what I don'thave, I will give you what I dohave. I have a saviour that loved me first, sacrificed for me to the point of death on a cross, and a resurrected Lord who can handle Every. Single. Problem the world can throw at you - get up and walk. 
Please allow me to step on your toes? 
I do not understand a Christianity that is unwilling to be uncomfortable, messy and sacrificial. 
This sacrificial and messy faith should be changing the world around us. 
There are so many thoughtful Christians out there, doing the work of loving others. 
These beautiful souls are hard working men and women, students, husbands and wives, moms and dads who wake up daily with the soul purpose of walking out lives of gratitude and obedience to Jesus Christ. 
I pray that their influence is the strongest on the watching world. 
Finally, if you are a Christian, what does that look like in your daily life? 
Do you have time? Do you have room? Do you have something to offer? Do you give freely because you have received freely? 
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:14-17
In short, if faith is IN us, we should see it working OUT of us. 
Everyone should know we are Christians, not because of what we say we believe, but how we live outwhat we believe and how we love the world around us. 
It's all so simple and foundational that I worry you are rolling your eyes at me....we know all of it right? 
Maybe you, like me, could shed all the extra stuff and get back to Jesus. 
Jesus and His simple message: 
Jesus said to him "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39
No problem...I will get right on that. The truth is easy enough to understand, but living it out may take ahwile. 
Here is beauty of Jesus truth: It is simple to understand but it will take a lifetime to figure out. 
To get there, we need to ask what love requires of us. Every day. All day long. 
It will change us, it will change our families, our workplaces, our communities and the nations. 
May it be, so help us God. Amen.

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