Impressed or amazed?

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
1 Corinthians 1.27-29 (NLT)

“We have too many high-sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them.”
Abigail Adams

More than any other accusation I hear leveled against Christians is the charge that they are inconsistent. What they say they believe doesn’t line up with the way they act, particularly the way they act toward other people. Having been a Christian for almost 30 years now, I have to admit that we are all too often guilty of living inconsistently.

I used to think that I wasn’t easy to inspire. Over the last few days, though, as Jon Stewart’s interview with Malala Yousafzai made the rounds via social media, I realized that I’m no less prone to being inspired than the next guy. It’s where I find inspiration that makes the difference. I’m unamazed – and most times unimpressed…and on grumpier days even annoyed – with the hyper-confident, the overly self-assured, the grossly self-ambitious and the personality that is almost too big for the room. What amazes me is not when obviously talented people accomplish something.

When I watch my hometown San Antonio Spurs on the court, what they accomplish is impressive but I expect them to be impressive. They’ve worked hard and have obvious skill to do great things, but it’s not life-altering amazing. When New Rochelle High School student Khalil Edney makes a last second shot from half court to lead his school to victory, now that’s amazing. No one expects that to happen.

What amazes me is when great things are accomplished through people otherwise overlooked by society. What really moves me isn’t easy to come by because, frankly, most of the world doesn’t give a lot of attention to those things. They seem insignificant, inconsequential…even foolish. I mean, what kind of situation would arise in which a teenage girl in Pakistan standing her ground for her beliefs would result in a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize? Why does 10-year-old Robby Novak’s Pep Talk become a viral sensation viewed by more than 20 million people on YouTube?

Throughout history God has regularly chosen to use that which the world ignores to change people’s lives. The apostle Paul said that God chose the foolish, the powerless, the despised and the discarded to accomplish some pretty amazing things in the lives of some early Christians living in a part of the world known as Corinth at that time. I love what Mary Fairchild wrote about the original twelve men Jesus chose to start the Christian movement:

“These men became the pioneering leaders of the New Testament church, but they were not without faults and shortcomings. Interestingly, not one of the chosen 12 disciples was a scholar or rabbi. They had no extraordinary skills. Neither religious, nor refined, they were ordinary people, just like you and me.”

I’m not sure that any of these twelve men would be candidates for leading anything in today’s culture. The only thing notable about them was how ordinary they were. They would not have been doing anything to catch anyone’s attention and would have been off most people’s radar.

Years ago I was involved with a college ministry whose strategy was to reach the movers and shakers on campus first. The thought was that if you could reach the star athletes, the Greeks, the student government leaders, then others would look at that and be motivated to consider Christianity. It was sort of a trickle-down approach to evangelizing people. For those of us who were among the rank and file of campus life, however, the fact that the president of the local chapter of a national fraternity was a Christian meant very little. For many, that approach did more to discourage people from considering Jesus than it did to turn them on to Him. I couldn’t help but wonder what Jesus’ approach to reaching college students would have been.

When I read the account of Jesus recruiting those original twelve guys to carry out His mission I’m struck by the one thing they all had in common. They lacked education, skill, finesse, position and experience. But, what they shared was a willingness to take on what Jesus called them to do. I’m pretty sure that in the beginning they weren’t even sure what they were signing up for.

Twenty years ago I made a decision to commit my work life to doing whatever I could to communicate God’s love for people. At the time I was working as an insurance adjuster for a large company. I’ll never forget what my pastor at the time, George, said to me when I told him of my decision. He apologized for the hoops I would have to jump through to accomplish what I felt I needed to do. I didn’t fully understand what he meant then, but I do now.

Two thousand years ago some men decided to commit their lives to doing whatever they could to communicate God’s love for people. They were working as fishermen, tax collectors and one was a member of a rebel political party opposed to Roman rule. What they accomplished was great not because they were capable, but because they were otherwise incapable. Like Khalil Edwards no one expected these original twelve followers of Jesus to be amazing but they were because they were willing.

I wonder…do we want to be impressed or amazed today?

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