19 Apr Stepping Outside our Comfort Zones to Serve others
Taking the point is a phrase often associated with the military tactic of an individual or small group advancing ahead of a larger unit. If the unit is in unfamiliar territory, the point may function as a scout who finds the best route for others to follow. If they are in hostile territory, the point is the most exposed position, most likely to draw fire from an enemy, thus helping the larger group avoid ambush. The experience of the point allows those who follow to more accurately anticipate what lies ahead of them.
Jesus frequently takes the point in his travels with his followers. Jesus “going ahead of them” (see Mark 10:32) goes beyond a physical description of Jesus’ location. It indicates Jesus’ willingness to walk into the unknown, to expose himself to whatever lies ahead, thus illuminating the way for his disciples to follow after him.
It is natural and understandable that we would like for Jesus to lead us into places that are comfortable, with a minimum of risk, places that don’t ask much of us. If that is what we expect of Jesus, we will be sorely disappointed. Jesus is concerned with renewing creation, redeeming the world, launching a kingdom of justice and peace, restoring relationships, and energizing us to self-giving love—none of which is possible without the cross. So, Jesus takes point. He sets his face toward Jerusalem and invites his friends to follow him there.
The disciples are not ignorant of the dangers of this trip and consequently, they are afraid. Jesus has told them more than once that a cross awaits him. He has also told them that they, too, will need to take up their own crosses. What are they to do with their fear? They rely on the one taking point, they trust in the God who sent him, and after an initial moment of panicked scattering, they will stick together. They will form an identity around the one who has taken point for them over and over again, the one who will go ahead of them and never leave them. They will, after the resurrection, become the church.
Part of the church’s mission, then and now, is to take point for the sake of others who would follow Christ. We take point when we step outside what is familiar and comfortable to serve people and work for the same ends Jesus did—creation renewal, redemption, justice and peace, restored relationships, self-giving love. There are endless ways to do this: visiting residents in a nursing home, taking a homeless stranger to lunch, lobbying elected officials for affordable housing or mental health services for those who are most marginalized, starting a community garden, sending a disabled child to camp, forgiving the family member against whom you’ve held a grudge.
Much of what we do as the church uses our God-given talents, abilities and resources for the good of all. We teach a class or prepare a meal, sing in the choir or comfort the bereaved, pray for and encourage one another, bring canned goods for the local food pantry, give our tithes, and worship together as a community. These are all good, important and necessary. But taking point involves more. It means walking into strange places, interacting with people we don’t know, speaking up when we prefer to remain quietly in the background (and sometimes remaining quietly in the background when we prefer to speak up.) It means giving of ourselves to serve. It means our comfort and convenience become subservient to the needs of others.
What would taking the point look like for you? What words and actions would mark your faithful response to God for the sake of others who would follow?
Yours for the Kingdom,