FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.The fifth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to RESTORE THOSE GOD BRINGS YOUR WAY. Four scenes in the life of Jesus come to mind as I've been considering this agreement we can make together.
The first is in Luke. This is at the core of Jesus' mission to the world. As soon as Jesus returns from the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil, He announces what His mission really is: Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:14-22)
Jesus' primary mission was that of restoration-good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for all who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. This restoration was all about good news for those who were snagged and entrapped with the bad news situations of life.
The second scene in the life of Jesus that speaks to the restoration of people is when Jesus called Matthew, also known as Levi: Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 5:13-17)
The first scene Jesus announced His primary mission of Messianic restoration. Here Jesus offers a primary and specific invitation to Matthew with the two most revolutionary words ever: FOLLOW ME! And, note who Jesus partied with at Matthew's house. It was the sinners, the non-religious and other tax collectors. He uses this party to make it clear that Jesus came for those who need His restoration touch-the sick-those who are sick and know it. He did not come to restore those who have it all together or who think they do.
In the third scene Jesus expands this primary invitation to everyone, when He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Who is Jesus referring to, when He says, "all you who are weary and burdened?" I think it's clear in the context that Jesus is speaking of all who are being exhausted by religion and religiosity-by the continual push toward more and better performance. People love religion, but their religious system exhausts them. He invites all who are worn out by it all to come directly to Him and He will give rest, even rest for your souls. Only two things for us to do: Connect with Jesus (take my yoke upon you) and learn from me (hear my words and practice them). There is nothing better to offer another person than rest-a safe place to just stop the merry-go-round. That's restoration! People all around you are looking for it.
The fourth scene in the life of Jesus is back to when Jesus prays to the Father in John 17. He prays about His followers: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." (John 17:16-19)
Jesus has already made it clear in this prayer that He finished the work the Father sent Him to accomplish. That work was to take those the Father sent Him-about 12 men-and teach them to know God and to know eternal life.
Jesus sanctified (set Himself apart) by the truth, so that His disciples would also be set apart in this Kingdom truth-the only truth that can set someone free!
His work was to connect these men into a unified relationship of oneness that they would have the same connection Jesus and the Father had. In fact, He says: "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." In that same prayer Jesus says, "I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
Can you imagine anything greater than this-to be loved by the Father in the same way He loved Jesus and that God's love may be in you and that Jesus and His love may be in you. Now that's restoration! As followers of Jesus you are being sent forth to do the same work Jesus did-to restore all those God brought to Him. Now it's your turn. Who has God brought into your life? Make it your practice to speak restoration into them-restoration that offers good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for all who are oppressed, forgiveness, peace, joy, rest for their souls and the very personal and powerful love of God. Restore all those God brings your way!