On ordinary life & loving our neighbors.
In the beginning, there was only us. Fearfully and wonderfully fashioned from dust and called lovely by Love itself. There was no shame, no fear of punishment or missing out—only fullness of joy, the abundance of beauty and freedom in the presence of God.
But then, the hiss of half truth, its twisted roots bound up in spite and vengeance: we could have the world, all the power and glory could be ours—conveniently without any mention of what it would cost us.
Now, it’s you and me and us and them, and we’ve all been fractured and found wanting, groping in the dark for just a little bit of hope. Our once clear vision has been blurred, and we don’t look each other in the eye anymore. Instead, we rob each other of our humanity, drawing our swords at every turn. In our haphazard hustle for comfort and purpose and security and legacy, we treat everyone we meet as a rival. We reach for power instead of love, fighting for what we’ve been told are our God-given rights and believing that someone else’s success or abundance is our failure and lack. Yes, even we who claim to have taken up our crosses to follow the Way. Often, especially us.
Fear is an expert impersonator of wisdom. I know this because I stare him down every day of my life. I also know that fear was never meant to be part of the story, and that we’ve all been called into something infinitely richer and more beautiful than comfortable lives spent amassing fame and fortune for ourselves.
We’re called to live out radical grace and abundance, to choose kingdom values over competition, and to participate relentlessly in the repairing of creation.
More than likely, this will sound complicated to some, and perhaps just plain outlandish to others. I suspect a few will simply file it away under liberal nonsense. How in all this broken world can we heal all the world’s brokenness? It can be a paralyzing question, to be certain. Many believe it isn’t possible, and therefore, it’s a waste of time to even think about it. After all, someday, Jesus will come back and set all things right.
But until that day comes, Christ, who though he had been given all glory and power considered it nothing in comparison to taking on fragile flesh to rescue us, has likened us to his own body. We who believe have been commissioned to carry light into dark places through our own belovedness, proclaiming freedom and deliverance for those who have been held captive and new vision to those who are blind.
When Jesus walked the earth as a man, his friends often missed the forest for the trees. At times, I, too, have fumbled, searching for the reality that sits right in front of my foggy eyes, waiting to be discovered. Inevitably, when I do stumble upon it, I kick myself for taking so long, though I suspect that is not what Jesus would do.
The truth about loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is not so complicated, after all, and it is possible to experience the unseen kingdom of God in our ordinary, everyday lives. Could it be that we repair the world’s brokenness by starting with the brokenness in our own neighborhood? The question was never how we were going to feed the multitude—rather, the question was what was already in our hands that we can give to the Jesus who delights in divine multiplication and making the impossible happen. Simply put, sometimes washing the feet of someone in pain looks like volunteering to wash their laundry, and feeding the hungry looks like inviting the neighbor who is starved for community over for spaghetti night.
Always, it looks like peacemaking—which isn’t to be confused with peacekeeping.
When Jesus spoke blessing in his most famous sermon, he didn’t say blessed are the ones who fight to protect the status quo. Rather, he said blessed are the ones who carry peace into spaces where there once was none.
It’s a calling that will cost us, to be sure. We will have to hand over the power we thought we gained when we traded our souls in the garden. It mandates that we not look away when faced with our neighbor’s pain. Not only that, it actually requires us to feel our neighbors’ pain as if it were our own and fight like our own lives are on the line. More often than not, it will not look peaceful to a spiritually blind world bent on establishing its own kingdom.
Those who are willing to lose their ideas of success and security and upward mobility in favor of the upside down Kingdom of God will, indeed, find their lives. And when we choose to steep ourselves in the reality of that Kingdom, our vision begins to clear and the fear of missing out begins to fade away.
Over and over in scripture, we find God asking people what is in their hands. What is the bread and wine of your ordinary days? Is it the weekday carpool that could make room for one more scrappy kid, the primary ballot that could extend healthcare for the sick neighbor down the street, the paintbrush or blog post that whispers me, too, in an effort to make someone else feel less ostracized? Is it the crock pot that could hold a couple extra servings for the single mama who works full time, the blooms in the garden that could be gathered up in a dollar store vase and taken to the pastor’s wife, or the five dollar bill found crumpled in the pocket that might bless the person behind you in the Taco Bell drive thru line? Is it the passion you’ve been holding tightly to all along?
Repairing the world isn’t magic—there’s no secret formula, just what’s already in our hands. The truth is that it has only been us, inextricably tied to one another the whole time. Fearfully and wonderfully crafted from dust, the whole lot of us making our way back Home together.
My beautiful friend Shannan Martin’s book The Ministry of Ordinary Places is out now! It’s all about the profoundly simple ways we can discover the Kingdom as we love our neighbors. I was fortunate to snag a copy before it hit the shelves, and honestly, I cried when it was over.
In a time when it is all too easy to get swept up in the chaos of national headlines and the busyness of everyday life, I can't overemphasize that these are words that the world desperately needs. They broke me and healed me in the best way. I trust Shannan's voice because I know that she is living the story of Kingdom kinship in her ordinary every day. The Ministry of Ordinary Places will make you laugh and cry, but most importantly, it will show you the way home. You can order it here on Amazon or purchase it wherever books are sold.