Proof of Life

To call me a middle-child is to oversimplify my situation. I was born number three out of four. Not the first-born, not the baby, not the middle child, but one of the middle children. So being the 2nd middle child makes me, I suppose, an especially middle child. However you want to label it, my formative years were entrenched in “middle-ness”. This basically means that I was destined to be a people-pleaser from the moment I made my debut; my birth order practically demanded it. And whether I like to admit it or not, I play the role well. For as long as I can remember, the happiness of the people around me has been exceedingly important to my own happiness. I’ve always felt as if I needed to do what other people wanted me to do. I’m the peace-keeper, negotiator and kin-keeper of the family. But probably the most prevalent aspect of my life as a people-pleaser is that I really want (need?) people to like me. I mean I really, really want people to like me. A corollary of this need to be liked is that I have a hard time dealing when I know that someone doesn’t like me. Given this, there’s been this tiny little (read: huge, gigantic) tension in my post-conversion life every time I read words like this…

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 1 John 3:13 {What? Why would anyone hate ME?}

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18 {Awww, now that’s not fair, no one should hate Jesus for crying out loud.}

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Luke 6:22 {Does that really say blessed?}

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19 {Hold up here, Jesus. You’re telling me that people are going to hate me because of you?}

Each of these verses is a slap to the face of a people-pleaser like me. But the message is clear – the more you love Christ, the more the world will hate you.  Needless to say, I’ve had a hard time reconciling my love for Jesus with my need for others to love me. In the past, it has caused me to toe the line between expressing an “acceptable amount of religion” and a complete love for the Lord with caution as I’ve tried my very best (in true people-pleaser fashion) to do both. But the Scriptures leave little room for such fancy footwork. I’ve attempted to get to the bottom of this conundrum as I’ve studied the Bible. Is there any way I can avoid being hated because of my love for Jesus?  Can’t I please people and the Lord at the same time? These questions have haunted the people-pleaser in me. And then recently, I ran across the answer when I wasn’t even looking for it when reading the story of Lazarus.

By the time we meet Lazarus in John chapter 11, Jesus was already making quite the scene. Crowds of people would follow him around to see what miracle he would perform next. In the first ten chapters of the book of John, Jesus turns water into wine, heals a dying boy, feeds the 5000, walks on water, and gives sight to a man born blind. I think we can agree that this is an impressive resumé, but in John chapter 11 Jesus ups the miracle ante when he raises Lazarus from the dead.  Four days dead in a tomb, Lazarus obeys Jesus when he says, “Come on out of that tomb now Lazarus”.  Although awe-inspiring in and of itself, what caught my attention was not Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus but people’s reaction to Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus…

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. John 12:9-11

The chief priests hated Jesus because he upstaged them. He taught with an authority that they had no access to, but why would they hate Lazarus? What had Lazarus done wrong? Somebody, tell me please, what a dead man could possibly do wrong?!  I re-read the story several times as I struggled to find the answer and then it hit me – the only thing Lazarus had done wrong is that he had dared to live. Lazarus stood as living proof of the resurrecting power of the God-man Jesus. Lazarus gave everyone around him, who knew him, who knew of him (see John 12:17-18) – the proof of life that only Christ can give. All Lazarus did to gain the spite of those who hated Jesus was to live the life that Jesus granted him.  As followers of Christ, we too, must be willing to accept that we will be hated for the proof of life that we offer – if we dare to offer it.

proof of life image

And that’s a big if. Because here’s my hunch. My hunch is that we try to play down our proof -and the longer I’m a part of the church-going crowd the more my hunch is confirmed. We downplay our Christian lives as one tiny aspect of our identity instead of proclaiming with our lives that it is the very fabric of our identity. We relegate the presence of God in our lives and the work of God on our lives to a footnote of our story instead of giving it it’s proper place as the point of our story. We tiptoe around the beliefs of others to the extent that we extinguish our own and as a result we offer no proof whatsoever – we play dead. And the enemy loves this.

After all, how can we glorify a Savior that we’re a little ashamed of?

Because we don’t want to be hated, we minimize the impact that Christ has made. But that is not the proper response of life that has been changed by Christ. There is a clear purpose for each of us who would proclaim Him as King and that, quite simply, is to PROCLAIM HIM, which you can’t do quietly – not even for the sake of pleasing people.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  1 Peter 2:9

Maybe like me, you’ve toed the line between an “acceptable amount of religion” and a complete love for Christ. Maybe like me, there’s a people-pleaser in you who fears being hated. Maybe like me, one day you’ll get tired of playing dead.  My prayer for each of us is that, like Lazarus, we would be daring enough to display the proof of life that Jesus has given us.

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5 thoughts on “Proof of Life

  1. Amen! And AAAHH!!! I LOVE THIS!!! Chills while reading it, no lie. I know how hard this lesson comes by you. I know the struggles and the tears, but my goodness dear friend – you have learned well! AND you share with us! Amazing. The Lord is teaching me similar things about proclaiming Him. To not keep secret what He has done for me and does for me, but to shout it from the roof tops! To go after proclaiming Him like never before. I am a slow learner, but this post has spurred me along. Thank you, my dear and sweet friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m working on not only “proof of life” to show others but to enjoy for my own self each day. (if that even makes sense) Don’t let the small moments slip away without really enjoying them. Yes, through the screaming kids and endless chores… THIS is my life. And, how I react to things and live out things… is truly what I think about Jesus too. I also don’t want to minimize the sacrifice that has been made for me/us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this, Summer! God is speaking a word of boldness into both of our lives… thank you for delivering the message I’ve been hearing in my heart these past few months!

    Like

  4. Summer, This truly spoke to me as I am a middle child and also struggle with the “fine line”- this was an encouragement- 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

    Like

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