There is a scripture that haunted me in my growing up years. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required...” (Luke 12:48). It felt like a burden to me. I treated it like a checklist: 1. Did I pray for others in need today? 2. Did I give financially as much as I possibly could? 3. Did I raise awareness about what is going on? 4. Did I tell other people about Jesus because I have the freedom to do so anytime?
After all, much should be required of me. Simply by living in America I am in the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and I live in a country where persecution looks very different than it can to our brothers and sisters who face violence or imprisonment for their faith.
This got me thinking about what I could learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters about ‘what is required’ of us. Hearing their stories, they do not respond out of guilt or obligation. In fact, many of them have been set free from the bonds of legalism in religions such as Islam.
I realized that our faith in the West is not so different from theirs if we understand two basic principles that Jesus said were the greatest commandments for everyone in Matthew 22: 36-40: 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all you mind and 2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
The interesting thing about love is that it can’t be put on a to-do list, something to check off so that you know you’ve done your good deed. In fact, love is usually something that comes through experience. You wouldn’t know you loved pizza until you tried it; you wouldn’t have fallen in love with your spouse without first meeting them. In the same way, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
In VOM’s June newsletter there is a story about a woman named Generosa whose pastor husband was murdered in Tanzania by Muslim extremists with machetes. What she said in response? “They did something they didn’t understand; they didn’t know what they were doing. We read in Scripture that God wants us to forgive those who offend us.”
A response like that does not come out of a place of obligation, it can only come from the miraculous influence of Christ’s love and grace on a person’s life. Paul says “the love of Christ compels me” (2 Cor. 5:14). That love that compels a woman in Tanzania undergoing intense persecution is the same love that compels me in the United States; it is not a partial love.
So in some ways, I read that scripture differently now. I know that much love is required of me, because I have been given much. Not out a sense of guilt, because guilt is an unworthy motivator often leaving its victims disenchanted or disillusioned. Christ’s love however, is what changes lives both across the world and here in our own backyards.
Your Turn: Can you tell the difference between good and bad motives in your life? How does Christ’s love compel and motivate you in your everyday life?
"Grace Taylor" serves on the staff of VOM. She was first introduced to the ministry of VOM by her parents and grandparents, who received the VOM newsletter, and through the VOM book Jesus Freaks. She has served in 12 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God’s Kingdom throughout the nations of the world.