Trading Places

Why should you care? Why should you give up even a penny, or an ounce of time, or give a fragment of focus? Why should compassion ever compete with your comfort?

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 It is in the aftermath of Jesus engagement that we find our answer:

TRADING PLACES: Mark 1: 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Despite Jesus telling him to keep quiet, the man had experienced something so powerful and tangible that he couldn’t contain himself.  His God moment resulted in a persistent Gratitude.  The guy wasn’t being paid to spread the news of Jesus. He realized that Jesus had traded out his ailment with Jesus awesome power! Here is what’s crazy in the aftermath, Jesus ends up in the very place that the man used to be confined–in the lonely places. The leprous were sent outside of camp, and it is Jesus that will one day carry his cross to another lonely place to trade places with us.  This isn’t just someone else’s story; it has the potential to become our story. Paul writes in  Romans 4:25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Jesus didn’t save us via Facebook message, he didn’t save us through a cosmic decree finger-painted in the clouds, he saved us by trading places with us through an incarnation. He allows us to experience compassion before calling us to be compassionate.  Jesus became nothing, so that you could become something in the lives of others

.kolbe.jpgIn Chuck Colson’s book The Body¸ he recounted a story that could easily have been forgotten by history. The year was 1942, the location was none other than the seemingly god forsaken place of Auschwitz concentration camp in the annexed section of Poland. 3 Jewish people had amazingly escaped from the camp but the response from the Nazi soldiers was swift and ruthless. For the 3 who escaped, 10 men were rounded up and left in a cell for the others to watch them waste away and die of starvation. One of the 10 started to cry violently, prisoner #5659 bemoaning his wife and kids who he would have to leave behind.  That is when a Franciscan priest named Maximillian Kolbe offered himself in place of the Polish captive going up to the captain nicknamed the butcher and saying, “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned.” And so he did.  As the days passed the devastating results started to work through the group. After 2 weeks, 9 had passed away and only the 10th, Maximillian remained. Finally, the guards grew impatient wanting the space for their evil purposes; they decided to inject him with carbonic acid to hurry up their hellish plan.  Those standing around him were rocked by what followed. Instead of resisting, after already having offered himself for certain death, he gently extended his arm allowing them to inject Him.

In a setting that seemed to be void of God’s voice, there came a moment that spoke vividly and astonishingly to prison #5659. And what of Franciszek Gajowniczek? He died in Poland in 1995 – 53 years after Kolbe had saved him. But he was never to forget the monk. After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek spent the next five decades paying homage to Father Kolbe.[1]

A lifesaving gift elicits a gracious response. Christ decided intentionally and purposely to take our place—to take our sin onto the cross—so we could have his righteousness, and then be raised on the third day so we could rest in his resurrection—knowing our resurrection is coming. Not just spared death for 53 years, but enjoying a reunion for eternity. As you honor your connection with Christ, as you remember his death for your life, the chance to be compassionate awaits.  Don’t give because you feel a debt to do things for God—do it because you have a chance to do ministry with God. Don’t do it because you are supposed to (although Scripture tells us to give cheerfully) give because you have been surrounded by God’s love. Stewardship sees needs in the world and God as the solution. You could give your time, energy, money, effort to lots of things, you could chase lots of targets—but each and every time regardless of all the variables—the world is missing its creator in Christ.  Will you take compassion on those who are crumbling or walk past them? Will you trade places or ignore them? Will you invest in them or disengage?  The only response that develops our character, partnership with Christ, and answers our call—is compassion—seeing someone’s brokenness and not running from it, but having a broken heart for them.



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