It’s Holy Week once more, and in the run-up to Good Friday these past several years I have found I am annually amazed at the fact that Jesus walked into Jerusalem on Sunday, hailed as a king, and only a few short days later was shouted down as a criminal, a man for whom the only fitting punishment was crucifixion.
How fickle those crowds who welcomed him in must have been! How shallow their dedication to this man that they said they wanted to follow on Sunday, to have so utterly turned away from him by Friday. It’s tempting to think that, had I been there, I would have responded differently. At a minimum, I like to comfort myself by imagining that I would not have had such a drastic turn in my loyalties.
A few months ago, I happened to run into a young woman wearing a blue ForColumbia 2016 shirt. As one of the people charged with organizing ForColumbia last year, and again this spring, I like striking up conversations with people I run into wearing that blue shirt so that I might find out what their serving experience was like. This particular person, though, when I asked her where she served, readily admitted, “Oh, I actually didn’t end up serving anywhere. I mean, I signed up…but I was reading a really good book at the time, and that morning I kind of got lost in it, and I just didn’t end up going.”
I was dumbfounded.
I both admired her honesty and – keenly aware of the various volunteer shortages that occurred a year ago – wanted to throttle her. She had committed to help others in her city a few short weeks prior to the serving day, and someone had been counting on her (and the other members of her team) to show up. The day of the event itself, however, a turnabout in her loyalty drastically changed her commitment. Once again, I like to think I would never behave like that.
If I’m really honest, though, I can search my history and find plenty of times when I was just as fickle as the Passover crowd in Jerusalem…and the non-serving-but-very-honest girl in blue.
There are plenty of times I’ve committed to attend an event that, when it came, I just didn’t feel like expending the effort it would take to show up. Shortly after I remarried in 2004, one of my own children served up the clearest-possible verdict on my willingness to cut and run on verbal promises: “Mom, is this going to be one of those things we just talk about, or is this going to be something we actually do?”
Ouch. Not spoken out of an intent to hurt me, my own kiddo was pointing out what was clear to him; a regular disparity between what I say and what I actually do. This is not the only example in my life, either:
- There have been several occasions where I’ve started a Bible study that I didn’t finish because I lost interest in the topic.
- I’ve paid for college courses that I didn’t finish simply because I couldn’t motivate myself to actually follow through on the work.
- Perhaps the supreme example, for me personally, is that nearly three decades ago I committed myself in marriage to someone that, ultimately, I ended up leaving.
So I’m really no different at all.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us very plainly to let our “yes” mean “yes,” and our “no” mean “no” (Matthew 5:37). It sounds so simple, right? And yet, it’s a lifelong struggle to simply live out what we say we believe, to do what we say we’ll do. Changes in our own agendas suddenly make this thing over which we earlier shouted “Hallelujah” suddenly seem like something we would rather turn our backs on.
When I am honest, and I own up to the truth that I’m not that different from those in Jerusalem who turned their backs on Christ, I can also say that I don’t want to be that way. I want my “yes” to mean “yes.” I can only do that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, helping me to turn from my own agenda and my own selfishness and to live out a deeper commitment.
I already mentioned that several local churches are helping to organize the ForColumbia effort once again. Our day of service is Saturday, April 29, nearly two weeks after we celebrate Easter.
But this week (April 10-14) is the week when volunteer sign-ups close.
Please consider giving one day – or maybe just half of one day – to help others in our city who really need it. Please consider making a commitment to live out God’s call on our lives as believers, to love and serve our neighbors sacrificially.
And then, in a few weeks, please follow through on that commitment and show up, ready to love and serve.
Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.