“If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James 1:26-27
“I put no stock in Religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination, called the ‘will of God.’ Holiness is in right actions and courage on the behalf of those that cannot defend themselves; and goodness.” -Hospitaler- Kingdom of Heaven
I heard these words in Kingdom of Heaven, needing a little epic story while getting some “work” done. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the story depicting Jerusalem in a turbulent yet very peaceful time. During this time Jerusalem was a city freely housing all religions which held it as their “Holy City.” In some unknown way Muslims and Christians lived peacefully together; the last time Jerusalem has seen peace. Even in these times there were two forces trying to pull the city apart: the Knights Templar who brought all the essence of man’s depravity under the battle cry “God wills it” and, on the other side in Damascus, an Saracen army of over 200,000 men under the control of Saladin. As you can see it was a very volatile situation.
Enter Balian, a blacksmith who is tracked down by his estranged father, the Barisan of Ibelin. Balian leaves France searching for truth, God and asylum – like a lot of the crusaders. In the end, he finds himself as the head of the army of Jerusalem, under the charge to defend the city, but most importantly defend the people.
This is where I find myself. I am not Balian, nor am I a Knight as much I wanted. A year and a half ago I found myself in a struggle. All that I knew and believed of life, church, and politics were all wrapped up in a shroud of “religion.” Yet we all have issues with everyone else that crosses our path on the same crusade.
People do the craziest things in the name of religion, and not the kind of Crazy Love Chan speaks of. Recently I have experienced the “crazy love” Jesus asked of us. I met a man named *John* this week with Cerebral Palsy when a call came out on twitter looking for help to unload his moving van into his new apartment in Austin. *John* moved back so he could be a part of a community again, live to the fullest. Elora and I showed up a few minutes late and there were more people there than I could have imagined. I was only able to make two trips into the apartment before the trailer was empty. Some of the guys were already putting his bed together and setting up his work room. Elora and Maris were hard at work putting the kitchen in order. All the while people were showing up to say hi, a young nurse who lived down the street gave *John* her number if he needed anything at night. That day Steven set up a Care Calendar to hold things down while the government got on the ball. Religion has us hating what we don’t agree with or don’t understand, but Jesus asked us to love in those moments.
I like this quote, because you can make people submit but it takes something deeper to decide to submit, and that is what Jesus asked of us. Few years back to Elora and i made a decision to help people. Sounds funny because we have always helped people. I think this was an active decision to go out of our way even if it cost us something. I can’t say that we have been faithful all the time, but we try to, and it is getting easier. So when the email arrived on friday about the care calendar I knew, given my food background, i had to sign up. Why did it take us till Sunday to sign up, i don’t know, but when we looked at it there was a need for Tuesday morning. This entailed bringing breakfast, feeding, and Bathroom duties. I told Elora to sign me up. She looked at me and asked, “Can you handle that?” Honestly, at the moment i didn’t know if i could, but as in Steven’s email says, “the need is the call.” I would meet the call, or do my best.
I woke that morning early so that i could walk Gatsby, shower, and start breakfast tacos. It was a frigid morning accented by the sound of sleet hitting the trees, sidewalks, and my head. I gave *John* a call just to let him know that i would be there if not a little late due to the weather. As i walked in greeted with a welcoming, “Hi”. I was asked to get a Starbucks drink out of refrigerator with a straw (because that is his “addiction”) and we sat on the floor helping *John* eat and drink. We spent an hour chatting and eating, *John* telling me how God has gifted him with ability to hang out all day with people telling them about Jesus.
While i was there, a clerk from Girling came to fill out his paper work for a home care taker. This was an answer to prayer, *John* was in a two-week waiting period, that would be cut down a week. (now and then the government works) I sat by as *john* answered questions about himself. As the man left, i knew the hard part of my visit was coming. *john* walked me through the process of bathroom duties, could have been the hardest things i have done. I don’t know who it could be worse for, me or him, but we got through it together. Afterwards i hung out for a little while longer talking and watching the snow fall outside.
I was later thanked for helping and that i had sacrificed myself that morning. That phrase hit me. Did i sacrifice? Could i have done more? I don’t know if i sacrificed anything that morning, I love cooking and feeding people, but i do know that i crawled out of my comfort to help someone. In the end it was i that was shown love and kindness. Is that what the Kingdom of Heaven is like?
Balian picked up a sword to defend the city and the people who had been entrusted to him. Leading an army of untrained and unprepared people to defend a city against 200,000 men with war machines. After several days of defending the city, when the walls finally fell to Saladin, Balian marched out to meet the army. In negotiations he turned over the city in return for the lives of the people.
Is the Kingdom of Heaven a place; is it what we as christians have been waiting for? I am tired of waiting. I think throughout the new testament Jesus was showing us how to live out the Kingdom of Heaven, by loving those who were unloveable, the outcast, and giving completely of himself for the lives of the people who were entrusted to him. Hospitaler said it best, “what man is a man, who does not make the world better.”