Sometimes Boris would drive me nuts. I mean really drive me nuts. Ok, sometimes I suppose he just ticked me off if we’re being honest here. I remember well the afternoons that Boris would come into our office at the college we rented from in Moscow, Russia. We’d play chess and discuss everything from politics, to Christianity, to philosophy. I liked playing chess with Boris because he was just about the only Russian over the age of 12 that I could actually beat. The reason Boris pushed me to the edge sometimes was because he clearly had little interest in discussion for discovery, but rather just for the sake of being argumentative. Boris longed for the Communist to retake the government in the national elections of 96. Boris quoted Paul McCartney with as much reverence as the apostle Paul. Boris referred to both Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon with equal admiration while joking about Jesus. Boris would deny the credibility of the Bible while all the time never acknowledging the proofs I’d give for its inerrancy. Boris just liked to argue and I suppose that’s probably normal for a young man in his late teens and early 20s. I’m sure I’ve got my own history of annoying folks with my arguments as well. So if you’re out there Boris, please know that I really do love you and miss you.
One of the criticisms of Christianity that Boris would level at me periodically was the supposition that Christianity was simply not practical. “It didn’t do much,” he’d say. Maybe he was contrasting me to the Bolsheviks of old or something. But for whatever reason he had that idea, I tried to illustrate to him that Christianity is anything but impractical. Authentic Christianity is not simply head knowledge or philosophy, but rather the answer for the woes of humanity. True Christianity is as practical today as it was in the first century. Some people have said that when a Christian gets too heavenly minded they cease to be of any good in the world. Yet in reality, the more a person pursues an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ the more good they actually bring into the world.
Paul made the clear connection that as Christ followers our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant . . .” and later on acknowledged that “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” In short, authentic followers of Christ focus on others more than themselves and what could be more practical than that in a culture that is consumed with self-absorption?
One of the greatest examples of this in the world is the creation of the International Red Cross by a serious follower of Jesus, Henry Dunant. Think about the history of good in the world, such as hospitals, orphanages, and other help agencies. Now contrast that to the celebrities of my old friend Boris and others of atheist flavor and the difference is clear. Right now I’m remembering even my church family here in the northwest Houston area and our corporate response to Hurricane Harvey this past August. This body of believers, like so many across the land, rose beyond the occasion to help others. I’m thinking of the marriages that have been restored and are thriving because the husband and wife choose to think of the other first. I’m thinking of the young women and men who are growing in their faith and are now getting ready to step out into the world with humility and plan to serve instead of expecting the world to serve them. I’m thinking of self-sacrifice in the cultural face of selfishness and seeing a very practical answer to a timeless problem.
As the American government continues to debate on how to make a safer and better society, it seems like the answer for our day is the same that Christ gave 2000 years ago; “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Truly, what could be more practical than that?
How are you going to show the love of Christ in practical ways today?