The inertia of sin continually pulls us toward self and away from our Savior. But when Jesus shows up, our lives begin to assume the shape of the cross, both vertically —loving God—and horizontally—serving others.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
When Adam and Eve turned away from God they not only denied their humanity, they derailed their calling. And what was their calling from God? To expand the borders of their lives to the boundaries of God’s kingdom. They were to be cultural caretakers; they had been given the awesome privilege of caring for everything God had created. But sin changed all that. Instead of being other-oriented, they began living for themselves. They pursued their goals. They chased after their dreams. They were determined to accomplish their agenda. They shrank the size of their lives down to the size of their lives . . . and that is how we all live by nature.
Even after Jesus takes His rightful place on the throne of our lives, sin still has a tendency to atrophy our commitment to God and arrest our concern for others, just like the Israelites Isaiah was addressing in the passage above. Instead of loving God and serving others, they were busily engaged in demonstrating how “religious” they were. Their primary focus was inward, not upward and outward. As the children of God, they had to be reminded of their purpose in this world, which was the very same purpose Adam and Eve had: to put God’s steadfast love on display by caring for all that He created.
God wants all of us to be other-oriented. He wants us to put the Gospel on display and make Him attractive. And that can only be done when we expand the borders of our lives back to the boundaries of God’s creation. We are to live each day for the expansion of God’s kingdom, not our own. When we are living for God’s kingdom, we begin impacting the lives of those around us. His concern becomes our concern; what breaks God’s heart breaks our hearts.
This level of living means we often get involved in things that don’t personally impact our own little lives. Why? Because we are living for something bigger than ourselves. We are living for the glory of God and the good of others, regardless of whether it meets the needs of our own self-interest. Only those who are other-oriented experience this kind of transcendent living.
Let me encourage you with a closing word from C. S. Lewis:
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!