“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:12-14)
Read: Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39 – 2:40
Relate: The Fifth Crusade was well underway when a surprising lay recruit showed up in the camp in the summer of 1219. Today he is best known for the apocryphal stories of him preaching to animals and for his work among lepers. In his own day he was best known for his voluntary poverty and founding an order of “lesser brothers” who did the same. Either way, Francis of Assisi was the last person anyone expected to take up the call and join the crusades.
He wasn’t done with his surprises, however, and sometime in late August or early September he sneaked out of the crusader’s camp and into the enemy’s lines. Against impossible odds he did manage to get a one on one audience with the Sultan. Impossible odds were what was necessary because his goal was to convert the Sultan to Christianity and bring an end to the war. We do not know with accuracy what was said in that interview but we do know that, when the Crusaders were crushed on the battlefield Sultan Malik al-Kamil was unusually magnanimous returning all captured crusaders and signing an eight year peace treaty when he could have capitalized far more on his victory. We also know that Saint Francis sent an order to his order of “lesser friars” to show love and live in peace with the Muslims. No, he did not accomplish his stated goals but we will never know until heaven the results of one man’s unquestioning obedience to God in what looked like an impossible situation and impossible task.
React: President Obama spent the day yesterday at the United Nations stumping to form a coalition against ISIS. He said they are a symptom of “the cancer of violent extremism” and that “the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.” It sounds a lot like the rhetoric Bernard spewed out when he was stumping around Europe to build fervor for the Crusades. The truth is, meeting violence with violence only escalates the violence.
Jesus came to establish a different kind of kingdom. He came to bring about another order. Jesus came to bring victory over death. Obama called ISIS a “network of death”. Are we willing to do the work He has done? Are we willing to attempt the even greater things He has promised? The statement has been made, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man wholly committed to Him.” That’s not true. We have Jesus. But what if one, or a dozen, or a hundred believers today were to take up that challenge and walk in Francis’ steps. What if we were willing to pack up our bags, leave our comfy Christianized world and confronted head on the “enemies of peace” with the radical love of Christ? It might possibly cost us our lives but it will definitely change our world. Would you be willing to go? Am I?
God, I belong to You. Spend me. Use me. Waste me. Spill me out. Let my life be a drink offering poured out for Your glory. You promised us that we would do greater things and I am tired of that being some empty, hollow, vague promise. The world needs changing. Let me be a part of an army that will dare to get out of our pews, go to the darkest of places, and begin living out the miracle of Your love. God, please keep me far from the comfort of complacency.
[Ed’s note: This was first written just less than two years ago. It was the day God called me to pack my own bags and go.]