Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thoughts on Bodyguards...

In Mexico, when someone has a lot of money, it often means that their children are accompanied by bodyguards. Unfortunately, kidnapping the children of the rich and holding them for ransom is an ugly reality down here. During our years here, we have had a few students involved in our ministry who travel with bodyguards, and we have one such guy right now. Whenever he comes around, his “friend” comes with him; and his friend just happens to be about 30 years older than everybody else in the room and always wear a loose jacket. So the other day I was thinking to myself, “Man, that would be so strange to basically be forced to hang out with some old guy 24/7.” But then, I thought about it some more, and I decided that though it would surely cramp my style at times, it might also be really cool. I mean what if the guy was really great? What if he was really wise – like having your favorite uncle around all of the time to teach you useful stuff and make you laugh? And then I got to know this fellow a little bit, and he is a really nice guy. He’s ex-army, so he is pretty handy and has lots of cool stories about drug wars in the jungles of Chiapas, stuff like that. So then I started thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have my own bodyguard, if I had to. I determined that whether or not it was a really annoying thing or a really cool thing would totally depend on the type of relationship I had with my bodyguard.

So then I started thinking about the spiritual analogy. The morning of the same day that I got to thinking about all of this, I spent a couple of hours in the car with a good friend of mine – a student leader in our ministry with a very mature faith. We were talking about all kinds of things, and at one point the topic of guardian angels came up. (I think this was around the same time that he was driving down the highway with his knee while woofing down his Burger King cheesy tots. Yes, my friend is from Mexico City.) He said he believed in guardian angels, and I said I don’t really know what I believe about that. [Interesting Scripture: Hebrews 1:14 – “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”] We agreed that angels are certainly real (no matter if or how or when they “guard” us) and that God surely does take great care of us and bless us a lot. But we also agreed that bad things happen even to the most faithful of believers. We live in a fallen, sometimes dangerous world. Ultimately, even our best efforts can’t protect these frail bodies. Ultimately, back to the dust we go, and so in the meantime we must live life to the fullest for the Lord every moment of every day. So for those of us who walk daily with Jesus, the bodyguard metaphor doesn’t quite work. Jesus is not our bodyguard. He doesn’t guarantee that we will never be harmed. The thousands of Christians still being persecuted for their faith prove that. In fact, when we read the stories of Jesus’ life, he actually spends a lot of time making sure his followers are crystal clear about the fact that life with him will be anything but easy. The storms will come on all of us, and what’s important is where we build the foundation of our house. Back in August I heard (from speaker/author Gary Haugen) an awesome quote that I can’t get out of my head: “Jesus didn’t come to make us safe; he came to make us brave.” So if he didn’t come to be my bodyguard, well, why not? And what did he come to be?

So then all of this thinking about bodyguards brought my thoughts around to that classic movie of 1992. Don’t remember it? Let me jog your memory: “And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIyIIIIIIIIIIIIIIyIIIIIIIIIIII, will always love YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.” And I remembered the climactic scene – when Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) dives in front of a bullet to save Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston). As I thought about that, I wondered if my friend’s bodyguard would do that for him. I mean, I know they pay him well, and I can tell they are fond of each other, but if the shooting ever started, would he step in front of a bullet or not? I mean, did Kevin save Whitney because he was a well-trained and extremely dedicated bodyguard, or did he do it because he loved her? I guess we’ll never know. But we do know about Jesus, and here are the conclusions which eventually formulated out of all of this rambling about bodyguards:

1) Jesus did way more than take a bullet for me. He took a vicious beating. He took the rejection and betrayal of his closest friends. He took God turning His back on him as he bore the weight of the world’s sin. He took nails and spears and dehydration and suffocation. He took the most intense relational, physical, emotional, and spiritual pain that anyone has ever known. And he did it willingly. He did it for love – a love that makes the romantic silliness of even the best Hollywood movies pale in comparison. He did it for me. He did it for you. He gave himself in my place. And he lived a life that sang out more beautifully than Whitney (or Dolly before her) could ever hope to intone: AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!!! He didn’t come to be my bodyguard; he came to be my savior.

2) Jesus is not my bodyguard … he’s my “soul guard”. As I walk with him each day, his job is not to protect my physical body; it is to protect my soul. His job is not to keep me out of harm’s way in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Jesus and his angels care about me deeply, and they don’t desire that I experience physical pain … unless it might lead to spiritual growth. I really believe that my loving Father is willing to allow his children to fully experience the worst that this sin-filled world has to offer, because His priorities are spiritual. The physical is important only as it relates to the state of our souls – are we moving closer to or farther away from Him? At any given moment, that’s the real question. He didn’t come to save my body; he came to gain the allegiance of my heart, mind, and soul.

Let’s end with some words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 18 (v.10-14):
[The Parable of the Lost Sheep] 10 “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.* 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your* Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

Here is a reminder of the heart of God, the purpose of Jesus and the angels, and the mission you and I now share if we call ourselves his followers. To protect the innocent, to seek and save the lost, and to rejoice with the Creator when one is found. May you and I love sacrificially, placing ourselves between the hearts of our friends and the bullets that the world sends their way. And may you and I take the security we find in our daily walk with Christ and extend it ever outward as we become “soul guards” for those around us.

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