Thursday, October 8, 2009

Honor Roll

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

-- Matthew 10:42

Maybe you’re among the millions of television viewers who switch channels or leave the room when a commercial interrupts a favorite TV show. After all, those ubiquitous advertisements for Hamburger Helper, Glade room freshener and Cottonelle bath tissue can get old quickly. But that’s not the case for a select few commercials: particularly those running during professional football games. And it’s all taken to the extreme during the Super Bowl. Advertisers spend millions of dollars on 30-second spots that often are as imaginative and entertaining as any well-written sitcom. And if the commercials happen to have little or nothing to do with their sponsors, so much the better.

A few years ago, one company launched a series of commercials called “Great American Heroes.” Each ad recognized those faceless individuals who labor diligently behind the scenes to support the American lifestyle. What made the commercials memorable was their over-the-top scripts and theme music that saluted the accomplishments of such working class heroes as “Mr. Backyard Bug-Zapper Inventor,” “Mr. Jelly Donut Filler” and “Mr. Driving Range Ball Picker-Upper.”

“Without you, Mr. Giant Foam Finger Maker, our teams would be in sixth or seventh place,” proclaimed the announcer.

Great American Heroes, indeed. And although these commercials were absurd, their celebrations of the Average Joe were in many ways on the mark – at least when it comes to the upside down way of Jesus. For instance, society tends to honor sports stars, musicians, actors and politicians as heroes. And there are times when firefighters, police officers or others are lauded (and deservedly so) for their bravery and heroics. But Jesus tells us that the reality is quite different than the world’s conventional wisdom regarding heroism. From God’s perspective, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

The world defines the successful of society as those who do what it takes to get to the top and stay there. And in many cases, the ends (success and fame) justify the means. But for true Christ-followers, this so-called road to success is nothing but a dead end.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with achieving success in business or making a lot of money. The trouble comes when wealth, fame and power become the focus of our lives. Rather than worshipping and living our lives for the Creator, we risk worshipping a flawed creation that eventually will fall apart.

So what does it mean for a Christ-follower to achieve success? In Jesus’ upside down way, the answer lies in actually descending the world’s ladder of greatness into humility and servant leadership. Serving our neighbors – those next door, in the next office cubicle and in the next continent – becomes not a chore but a joy. And a way of life.

Maybe you’ll never get a television commercial like “Mr. King of the Karaoke Mike” or “Mr. Souvenir Snow Globe Maker.” But rest assured that the honors will be much greater once you invite Christ to live through you and use you to help build His Kingdom right here on earth. And that’s the way it’s happening every day: one committed follower at a time.

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