The Lamb’s War Needs Your Help

And now for something completely different…
Here on The Lamb’s War, I keep it pretty focused. I write about the daily walk of Christian discipleship as I experience it in my own life. I share what I’m seeing and hearing, and I invite you – my readers – into a shared journey of discovery with me.
But I’ve been realizing lately, I don’t really know who you are.
For more than seven years, I’ve been blogging without a really clear sense of who my audience is. I’ve made guesses, of course, but I’ve never had much data to back up my assumptions.
I need your help.
If you find value in this blog, would you please fill out a reader survey? You can do it right now, either through the embedded form below, or by clicking this link.

Thank you!
I appreciate your taking the time to fill this form out. The results from this survey will help me to make The Lamb’s War a better resource for you and others who are growing in discipleship to Jesus. I’m grateful to be walking with you!

Make sure to subscribe to The Lamb’s War to make sure that you catch my follow-up post, where I’ll share the results of this survey!

Who Are The Heroes?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be a hero. The stories that captivated as a child all featured a leader – or sometimes a whole team of of them – who make bold decisions, take decisive action, and generally drive the plot. These special individuals are portrayed as changing the course of history. Whether ancient heroes like Alexander the Great and Caesar Augustus or more recent ones like Barak Obama and Steve Jobs, our shared mythology teaches us that history is made by larger-than-life individuals, people who make earth-shattering decisions on a world stage.

Not surprisingly, Christians have turned Jesus into this kind of character, too. In popular mythology, Jesus becomes the greatest hero of all. With all the eyes of the world upon him, Jesus faced down all the rulers and authorities of his day, triumphing over them with his powerful message and the power of his resurrection. Raised to life by God and vindicated in the eyes of those who believe, Jesus sits at the right hand of Power, the ultimate image of heroism.

But is this a full picture of who Jesus is? Is Jesus merely the ultimate hero, the my-dad-is-tougher-than-your-dad comeuppance to Marduk and Zeus? Is Jesus our hero because he is the biggest, the strongest, the best?

That doesn’t fit with my experience of him. When I read about Jesus in the Bible, I do see a person who is facing off against gigantic historical and cultural forces. I see a great man of great moments, in some ways the epitome of our cherished hero archetype. But I also notice what is really important to Jesus. When the powerful men of his day question him, he remains silent. When they demand signs and wonders, he refuses. When he is flattered, he rejects it. If Jesus is a hero, he is not one who is interested in seeming heroic.

Jesus spends his time with the people on the edges – the lepers and tax collectors, women and fishermen. These folks don’t come looking for fancy talk and impressive signs; they are too desperate for that. They know their need of healing, daily bread and concrete justice. Never one to break a bruised reed, Jesus meets these crowds with true compassion and friendship. And miracles do happen.

Our society doesn’t train us to expect a hero like Jesus. While we’re busy watching for a champion who can beat up the bad guys, pitch a no-hitter, or invent a cure for cancer, we may miss the simple acts of heroism that are taking place every day on the margins of our great national drama, with the millions of ordinary people who stand just off stage. This kind of heroism is not for a special elite; it is for anyone who is willing to get their hands dirty in small, daily acts of service to others. This is the type of heroism that we can only participate in by surrendering our desire to be noticed.

I was raised to believe that public recognition and praise was an essential part of being a hero, and maybe it is in our world’s definition of heroism. But when I think about the people whom I have seen demonstrating true valor, most of these individuals have never been recognized by a large circle – sometimes, not even by those whom they are serving.

I remember when I was in middle school, there was an amazing woman named Dorothy, probably in her seventies or eighties at the time, who tutored me in algebra. I was the worst student ever. I would literally fall asleep in her house when I should have been completing my lessons. She just woke me up and told me to get back to work. I had no conception of what disrespect and ingratitude I was communicating through my behavior, much less how much love she was showing me by not kicking me out of her house!

Dorothy was a hero, not in the world’s sense, but in the spirit of Jesus. She wasn’t seeking recognition, or even a big triumph that would boost her self esteem. She simply saw that my family was in need, and she helped out by sharing her time and expertise. She demonstrated the humility and endurance to put up with me week after week, even though I didn’t deserve it. She loved me without expectation of return.

What would my life be like if I truly immersed myself in that kind of love and service to others? What if I compared myself more to the hidden heroes like Dorothy, and so many others who quietly hold our world together?

Off the Treadmill, Onto the Cross

Do you ever get to the end of the day and felt guilty because you haven’t gotten enough done? Maybe you feel that way most days. If so, you’re not alone. Our culture is obsessed with achievement, demonstrated results that can be measured and quantified. From childhood, in the grades we receive from our teachers in elementary school, we learn to measure our lives by the flat metrics of percentiles, performance reviews, and finished projects. Every completed task deserves another.

Guided by the ideals of efficiency, growth and productivity, we are encouraged to push ourselves to ever greater levels of accomplishment. We feel that we should more this week than we did last week. No matter how much we got done yesterday, today is an opportunity for more and better. Many of us have so internalized the relentless drumbeat of progress that we no longer need teachers or bosses to push us past our healthy limits. Our own deep-seated anxiety – dread of not measuring up, failing to justify our existence – is enough to keep most of us on the treadmill.

For those who seek to follow Jesus, however, there is an alternative. Just like each of us today, Jesus also had a success script that he was expected to follow. Everyone around him looked to him as a triumphant savior like David, a heroic warrior-king who would prove himself with mighty deeds and establish his kingdom through an overwhelming show of force. To the utter shock and confusion of even his closest friends, Jesus took a different path. In defiance of success culture, Jesus laid down all hope of worldly recognition in order to embrace a deeper kind of faithfulness.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus’ life ended in what looked like failure. By the time he was nailed to that cross, everyone around him had either brutalized him, mocked him, or abandoned him. Jesus didn’t just suffer physically; he felt cut off from everything and everyone he loved, even God. He went as low as a person can possibly go, making each of us look like respectable, productive citizens by comparison.

It’s tempting to focus on everything that happened after the agony of the cross: the resurrection, the gathering of the disciples, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and the joyous (if often turbulent) proclamation of the gospel throughout the ancient world. Truth be told, I would prefer to think of the cross as a necessary evil that Jesus had to endure in order to accomplish the beauty and power of the resurrection life.

But what if God’s glory is truly revealed in the cross? What if it is in Jesus’ utter poverty, his total lack of accomplishment in any ordinary human sense, that we see God’s face in splendor almost too terrible to behold?

What would it mean for us to measure our lives against Jesus’ apparent failure, rather than our culture’s myth of success? Might we find an invitation to release the many ways in which we seek to justify our own existence? What if following Jesus meant defining ourselves by the love and humility of God, rather than by our own achievement?