Lately I have been thinking about boxes that aren’t physical boxes but are still boxes that we use to create order and not have to worry about things. The boxes I have been thinking about are the boxes that we put people in … no, not the pine boxes that come at the end of our days but instead boxes that categorize people. We box people according to the depth of relationship we want to have with them. We have people in “closest of friends” boxes where the walls easily come down. We have people in “business associate” boxes that we deal with only when it is beneficial for us to do so. We have people in “acquaintance” boxes who we say hello to and maybe a quick “how are you doing?” but we never go deeper than that. And, for all sorts of reasons, we even have “do not touch” and “do not open – ever!” boxes that we put some people in. Those are the folks who, for whatever reason, we decide we just don’t want the discomfort of dealing with so we box them up real good – even putting a lock on the box and throwing away the key.
Yes, we put people in all types of boxes.
But, what if, in 2010, we strive to tear open all of the boxes with wild abandon -- just like an excited six-year-old does on Christmas morning? What would that mean to us? Just as the six-year-old finds exciting new adventures inside of each gift box, could we do the same when we tear open the boxes that we like to put people in?
A couple of thousand years ago, our heavenly father sent His only son because He wanted that sort of close relationship with us. He didn’t want us to be in the “on earth” box and Him to be in the “in heaven” box. He wanted us each to have a close, intimate, passionate relationship with Him. So, He tore open the box and sent us the gift of Jesus. And, while Jesus was here, He also broke open boxes. He could have spent His ministry years boxing people up. He could have created boxes for “Traitors,” “Liars,” “Thieves,” “Harlots,” “The Lame,” “The Blind,” and so many other things that would have kept others neatly arranged and separated from Himself – the Son of God. But He didn’t … because He wanted to love on each and every person He encountered. He continued that up to His dying breath here on earth as the One who sacrificed everything for everyone … out of love. And he does it today by not making boxes for “Me” or for “You”.
What would happen if, in 2010, we copy what was shown us all those years ago? What if we quit boxing people up and instead strive to engage everyone in a close relationship? How much richer will our lives be? How much will we grow? How much will we learn? How much will we spread God’s love?
Boxes cause misunderstandings. They cause fights and wars. They ruin relationships. They shield us from the wholeness and fullness which God intended for us to enjoy. We pray that, during this Christmas season, may we bask in the unboxed glory of His love for us … and may we make 2010 a year of un-boxing those around us – even when it makes us uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t come for His own comfort. Our lives are richer and fuller when we don’t dwell in our own comfort but instead when we love others just as He loves us.
When my mom was forty-three years old, she developed skin cancer and died within four months of the first diagnosis. I was in my early twenties at the time and I remember forty-three seeming much older than it does now. As I approached the age of forty-three (hard to believe that's been seven years ago!) I also developed a case of the same skin cancer which took my mom's life. Fortunately, the detection and treatment of skin cancer has greatly improved and I am fine - praise God! But that event has given me reason to ponder many times over the last seven years: "What if this day was my last? Would I have any regrets?"
John the Baptist discovered the uncertainty of each moment of life as he sat in prison.
I guess they call me "John the Baptist" because I preached a message of repentance and baptized with water while pointing the way to Jesus (John 1:31-33). "The Baptist" isn't such a bad name. I could have been called "John the Wearer of Camel Hair" or "John the Eater of Locusts."
King Herod must have been mad at me for exposing his sin of marrying his brother's wife (Matthew 14:3-4). I sure wish I was back in the desert preaching, but God must have a plan for me here in prison. I think Herod actually likes me. He often listens to me talk and seems genuinely interested (Mark 6:20). It's pretty loud in the palace tonight. They must be having quite a party.
"On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison."
Wow, that was fast! No time to say good-bye or write letters to my friends - no time to even gather my thoughts - just, "lean over and put your neck on the block." I sure wish I would have.....
No one knows when they will breathe their last. We may have sixty years or sixty minutes; but no matter how long we have, it will seem to pass in an instant - It amazes me how fast life passes by. The time to place our saving faith in Jesus is NOW! The time to restore relationships and encourage others with the gospel is NOW! The time to enjoy our family is NOW! And the time to praise God for His blessings and grace is absolutely NOW!!
Each of us enters this day with things we wish we could change, decisions and words which have not been honoring to God. But each of us also enters this day with the ability to begin, right this very moment, to live a life which glorifies God in all we do. Let's begin today to live fully committed to following Christ. Let's give Him our ALL and live toward an end which will leave no regrets.