If you wanted to meet every American in your lifetime, you’d have about 10 seconds to shake hands with each person and exchange names.
It would take one hundred years. You couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and most importantly couldn’t wash your hands.
In other words, it would be impossible. There is no way you could meet every single American in your lifetime. I was pondering this fact recently when someone told me that the world population at the time of Jesus was likely similar to that of modern-day America.
It’s pretty obvious Jesus did not meet every person on Earth in his 30-plus years here. I’m not saying He couldn’t have. I’m just saying He probably didn’t. Now, certainly He ministered to hundreds and thousands; Scripture is clear about that. But the larger part of the world He probably never spoke to. It’s likely there were sick people that He didn’t heal, miserable people He didn’t comfort and hungry people He never fed.
I think there is something important to learn here, but we must be clear. As we read the gospels, we see Jesus always quick to heal anyone who came to Him. He wasn’t running away from crowds or screaming at the mob of lepers like in the famous scene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
He was more than willing and able. It’s just that He had only a certain amount of time and a certain group of people to whom He was called to minister. And that’s it. He came to do His Father’s will and nothing else.
It may sound strange to say it, but the idea has lifted a great burden off my shoulders since it came into my mind. Jesus, whom we are to imitate, had a finite to-do list in His earthly life.
So do you.
You can’t feed every AIDS orphan. You won’t house every homeless person you pass. There are thousands of cities you should never visit and billions of people out there that you are not meant to minister to. You should find peace in this. I do. In fact–this may sound callous–but I find peace in the ability, when I’m passing so many people on the street, to say to myself, “I may or may not minister to you.”
It seems crazy, right? But I know I’m not the only one who has felt this weight. Like my buddy Chad said, “When I chose my kid for Compassion International, I felt like the guy in the pet store who wants to take home every single puppy.”
But we can’t. And we shouldn’t–we’re on a team. We all need to be reminded of this because there is a certain tendency for sensitivity to go hand in hand with an egotistical and absurd belief that it is my job is to save the world. But if St. Paul said it once he said it a million times: you are a part of the whole. You play your part and only your part.
That’s a relief. I couldn’t even meet everybody in my own country, much less remember their names. (I know this because my record is remembering just 5 new names at once–I set it just this past Sunday during the turn-and-greet part of the service.)
God has indeed called us to go and preach the Gospel to everyone. But understand this: Christ’s earthly ministry set an example for us in its limits. You are to play your specific role in the body of Christ just as, when He was here on earth, He played His role in the body of Christ.
Can it be said too often? Look to Jesus as your model. We must find our role if we are to accomplish His redemptive plan. Once we find our fit, we as a body can link arms and form a giant chain to sweep across the land and search for every lost soul like all the townies looking for Jim Carrey in The Truman Show.
We are inseparably linked. In this knowledge, I find freedom. It’s a different kind of freedom, being linked to the whole. But it’s the best kind. So it is, whenever I pass people on the street, I can say, “I may or may not minister to you, but somebody will.”
Because I’m on team that will not lose. And I can rest in this truth.