Christians called to focus on others

Published 10:19 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., came to know Christ as a young man who had been deeply involved in the counter-culture of the 1960s. But when he became a follower of Jesus, he discovered a true counter-culture.

In his autobiography, “Lost Boy,” Laurie wrote: “My druggie friends and I hadn’t been marching to a big, bold, different drummer. We’d flattered ourselves that we were so counter-cultural. But in reality, we were just shuffling along, lockstep — lifeless drones who all looked the same, chained to our tiresome selves…. It was in my new life among people of faith that I found freedom. As people followed Jesus, they were no longer slaves to addictions or themselves.”

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Laurie was part of the baby boomer generation. The teenagers and young adults of today’s millennial generation are often accused of being narcissistic, focused on themselves.

But what I have seen as a pastor and a father is that millennials who follow Jesus are among the most others-focused people I have ever observed.

I’ve been blessed to see this in a group of teenagers and young adults at my church. Several of them have been to Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, multiple times now.

While there, they serve in pretty tough, adverse conditions, loving people in Jesus’ name and sharing the story of His love with them. And when they come home to their comfortable, air-conditioned, American homes, they immediately begin looking forward to their next mission trip.

To go and love poor people fills their hearts with joy. Why? Because they have experienced God’s love in the One who loved them and gave Himself for them, and selfless love pours out.

It has become deeply fulfilling to give themselves to others, as Christ gave Himself for them. They have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words that to lose ourselves in serving others is to find ourselves, to discover a depth of joy that will never be found in worldly, material treasures.

One of these young people said, “I need Haiti more than Haiti needs me.” When we get out of our comfort zones for one week, it can change our perspective on the other 51 weeks.

In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul speaks of the love of God as being “shed abroad” or “poured out” in our hearts.

That is precisely what I see happening in the lives of these counter-cultural followers of Jesus. They have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, they want more of Him and they have found that they experience His presence intimately by serving the least of these.

As we drove home from the airport in an air-conditioned vehicle, I heard multiple teenagers, who had been serving and living in the heat and dirt of Haiti for a week, say that what they wanted most in the world was to get back there. One of them said that all she wanted for her birthday a few months from now is the opportunity to go back to Haiti and serve Jesus.

Now that is counter-cultural. That is freedom. That is love. That is New Testament Christianity.

We are saved to serve. But that doesn’t begin in Haiti. It begins right where you are.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.