Sunday, April 14, 2013

Love and Goodness

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

This verse from Matthew 28 is the verse that many evangelical Christians base their ministry on: making disciples of everyone and baptizing them, embracing the idea of washing them of their sins. However, this morning I heard a sermon called "Manifesting the Goodness of God" by at The Rock Church of Asheville that really put the idea of evangelism and the spreading of the Gospel into perspective. It was based off of the apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Romans: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent in knowledge and competent to instruct one another...I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done--by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit... It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written:
'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.'"
(Romans 15:14-21)

Paul did not force the Gospel on anyone, rather he let God's goodness radiate through his words and actions. I know I say it a lot, but I don't think I can advocate it enough: the best way to reach people is through simple love and hospitality. It is, believe it or not, possible to manifest Christ without deliberately doing so. Many Christians make the mistake of over-Christianizing themselves. Sounds weird, and you're probably offended right now (which would kind of prove exactly what I'm trying to say)...just bear with me.
Take, for instance, the example of a simple dinner party or a neighborhood barbecue. I can speak from experience, having helped my family plan many such a party. Christian music pouring through the stereo, not a drop of alcohol in sight--most of you know what I'm talking about. Everything is catered to the host's taste. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Christian music or sobriety, I fully advocate both. However, hospitality is about the guest...this is probably news to a lot of people.
People are much easier to reach in an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable.
In the words of Ian Green, our homes ought to be fishing boats rather than castles. We should be more interested in the person and soul that we're reaching than in the words we plan to use to pour into them. Become a friend. Use love to build a bridge into someone's life, and the draw toward the Gospel will follow as you love them and consequently manifest God's love and goodness.

But seriously, think about it. You can deny it all you want, but it's impossible to deny that the simplest things can turn everything around for any person at any given time. It's part of who we are; we're programmed to fall in love with the most simple forms of love and beauty, and I wholeheartedly believe that it's because God shows himself in the simplest ways. He works in simplicity. In fact, I think God's life epitomizes simplicity: he loves us unconditionally. We all know that, and we ought to strive for that kind of love: love without restraint and love without judgment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's been well beyond a year since I've even touched the link to this blog, and that needs to change. I think this is a yearly thing for me: new year, back to the blog about simplicity and Jesus and what not. But let's be real here, the new year brings nothing but passing time. A fresh start is something that should never wait for a changing number.
So here I am, well into the process of my own personal fresh start, and by no means oblivious to the fact that  my level of consistency is currently at a pretty stagnant negative. That's beside the point though, because the deep-thinking portion of my brain is working again as I prepare to close the book on one of the Watanabe family's few and far-between family holiday vacations.
Today was our final day of holiday celebration. My youngest cousin is currently four and with each farewell gesture between myself and the little rascals I call my family, my heart lurched in attempt to remain as close as possible for as long as possible. It's a relatively regular occurrence during such times, but this time it was magnified. I was rendered numb and completely speechless, a feeling I've known only a few times before.
Finally, hours upon hours later, it hit me: Sandy Hook--the most sickening and devastating incident this year and possibly in my lifetime thus far. Even a month later, my mind is unable to put aside the revulsion it feels toward the entire situation. Every time I hear a word that even remotely relates to the tragedy, my heart shatters and leaves me senseless. I simply am unable to absorb a single word spoken on the incident and my mind will never be able to wrap itself around the kind of evil involved in that kind of devastation. It's not that I can't or won't sympathize with the families, it's that I don't possess the capacity to accurately express just how much my heart breaks with and for them. The faces, the stories, the tears--I've never been more overwhelmed in my 18 years of existence. And now I get it. As I embraced my younger cousins, it sunk in that I have no way of telling when I'll see them again. I have missed and will continue to miss numerous triumphs and tribulations--birthdays, graduations...milestones that can never be relived. Milestones that a group of Connecticut families no longer have a hope of celebrating. And as easy as it is for me to sit here in this recliner and spew out lines about how God has a plan and everything will turn out well, I refuse to think, speak, or even type those words regarding the death of innocent children and their caretakers. I can't do it and I won't.
I take so much for granted on a daily basis, and it took the pain of these families for me to realize that everyone that walks in and out of my life is a blessing whether I want to believe it or not. And no matter how often I say that I can't wait to see my loves again, I have no guarantee of that.

20 pairs of chubby hands will never again stretch out to embrace their mommies, to color a page, to chase a pet, to grasp a pencil, to obtain a diploma, to shake the hand of an employer, or to hold the hand of a spouse, now wrapped around the arms of the same God who reaches out His hand to give us breath and the ability to live the lives that those little angels never will.

If for nothing else, I encourage you to live each and every day in this new year with conviction and purpose for those whose potential will never come to be.