Something (Someone) Worth Dying For
This weekend I preached on the Good Shepherd at Jacob's Well. In brainstorming sermon ideas with Pastor Amy, we stumbled upon the idea of being willing to lay down one's life, like the Jesus does for us. It reminded me of a myspace bulletin I noticed last week, in which kids glorified the shootings at Columbine, claiming that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were just standing up for themselves. I was horrified, but mostly because I know that kids identify with being put down until they feel desperate enough to act out in violence. It reminded me that everyone wants to find something worth dying for.
As Christians, we are called to lay down our lives for the Gospel, but most people think of this as meaning dying for an idea or a belief. But the Gospel is the message that God loves us with an unending, unbreakable love, and so dying for the Gospel means being willing to reach out to others in love, whether it is safe or comfortable or not. It means reaching out to people who are lonely and oppressed and unhappy, because when we are not willing to give our lives out of love, others lose their lives out of hate. That could mean reaching out to kids like Eric and Dylan who may have felt that no one cared enough to risk standing up for them. Lonely kids often act out in violence, and even if they don't hurt those around them, they often turn their violence on themselves.
And then there are those people who are oppressed and poverty-stricken, suffering from hunger and violence, and disease. We have plenty of reasons for why we don't do more to help people who are in the middle of war or famine or genocide, but how can we just stand by and let people die? I have recently been writing and talking a lot about the situation in Sudan, and it is still important to keep up that effort. In addition to writing to our goverment and raising awareness, we also need to support relief efforts on the ground. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has relief projects in Darfur, and you can give money directly to that ministry.
I also read an article today in the Washington Post, about an activist who was kidnapped and forced to fight as a child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda at the age of 15. This was 11 years ago; the war has been going on for 20 years. 30,000 children have been kidnapped. They children are forced to beat and kill and even rape others. Girls are often given to officers as "wives." Because of this situation, I sponsor a little girl in Uganda through Compassion International. I pray that my beautiful 10 year old friend Annet will never be hurt, but the sad reality is that in villages across Uganda, children are sent to sleep in town centers where there is less chance of being abducted. They are called the "Invisible Children." Some awareness is being raised because of a documentary made by three white kids from San Diego, who went to Africa in search of a story... and found this one.
The bottom line is that God has blessed us with so much, and it just doesn't make sense for us not to reach our to others and share what we have (love, money, food, etc). I love this picture at the top. I used it in church. It is a reminder that although doing the right thing is often hard and even scary, God promises to be a shepherd to us; to lead us and protect us, strengthen us and never abandon us.