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Discipleship: Becoming More Like Christ

“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  (Ephesians 2:10, NRSV).

Background and Reflection by Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, Managing Director of Resource Development, ABHMS

In the town where I grew up, several large reservoirs were surrounded by open space and dense woods. Owned by the local water company, the land provided water not only for our town but also for surrounding communities. “No trespassing” signs were a familiar sight on the trees that bordered the property. And yet, on more than one occasion, I wandered into those woods, all the while fearful I might get caught doing so. From an early age, I understood what it meant to respass—to go where I was not supposed to go—as well as the dangers attendant in doing so.

In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul describes our lives before coming into relationship with Christ as walking in trespasses and sins. This was our way of life. Yet God, in God’s infinite mercy, reached out to us, offering salvation in Christ and not merely a new lease on life but a new life itself, in which we are no longer to walk in trespasses and sins but rather in good works. This is our new way of life.

Jean Vanier served in the British and Canadian Royal navies as a young man, resigning his commission in 1950 to continue his studies with a yearning to live the Gospel call in a different way. In 1964, through his friendship with a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Vanier invited two of these men—Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux—to live with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. From that beginning, L’Arche (French for “the Ark”) grew and, last year, celebrated 50 years of enabling people with and without disabilities to share their lives in communities of faith and friendship. Dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs and support networks for people with intellectual disabilities, 140 L’Arche communities operate in 36 countries, including 18 communities in the United States today.

Vanier famously said, “We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” When I think of what it means to walk in good works, I think of Jean Vanier. I think as well of the long line of American Baptist home missionaries who stepped out in faith for the benefit of others—people of courage and conviction, such as John Mason Peck, Joanna P. Moore, Henry Morehouse and Jitsuo Morikawa.

The beauty of the Christian life is that one does not have to become a home missionary or start a new organization to walk in good works. Opportunities abound for us daily in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods and communities to demonstrate the love and mercy God has extended to us in Christ, to be a healing presence with those who may feel unworthy to receive God’s grace, and to pursue justice with and for those for whom justice has been denied—in short, to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Doing ordinary things with extraordinary love…..