What are you good for?

To use a cliché expression: why do we so compulsively put one another into boxes? Are we really that desirous of full understanding? I don’t think so. I believe that every person wants to put every other person in to a box for the sole purpose of answering the question: What are you for?

No the question is not, as one might hope, who are you? That is how we phrase it, but we really mean, what can I get from you?

People asked Jesus that question all the time. Some wanted him to be healer, some wanted him to be breadwinner, and others wanted him to be a political hero. At one time or another he seemed to promise to be many of these things, but when people tried to corner him as a means to a particular end, he evaded them. People clawed around him, hoping to discover what was behind him, when the answer was that Jesus came—not to give us anything, but that we might have him. All of him. Just him. He who is. The great I Am.

Lately I feel like I understand more fully what it is like to have people look to you to keep giving her the “bread” you gave yesterday. I believe that this person does authentically like me, but she doesn’t want to really know me or be challenged by me. From what I can tell, she wants to do whatever it takes to make her life as easy as possible, a tendency that I share. In the past, I have been a person who has provided more ease for her. Now I have to be discerning. How can I offer what she needs and not necessarily what she wants, but still be good news to her? That has been a major question for my roomies and I.

I would love for her to know Jesus, but if we indulge comfort idolatry, her knowledge of Jesus will always be based on what she’ll get from gospel people, not based on an authentic love of Christ. I want him to capture her heart in a way that only he can. I trust the Lord and his gospel. They are very good news. I am unafraid of frightening her away the pull of the gospel is too strong. He loves her more than I do.

I think this is a place where Christians could easily have a lot of trouble. The Bible says to be generous, to give people what they ask for from you. But there is more to it than that. We are not doormats. We can often give more to someone by not providing everything for which they ask.

I am learning this through discussing it in community. Sometimes a little worldly wisdom from mentors can confirm what I feel is right or wrong when I am not sure that I can trust myself.

I am so grateful that allowing Christ to live in me, putting on his righteousness, actually makes me capable of asking, in all sincerity, the real question. I can look at this girl, a person with whom relationship is costly and ask: WHO are you? If I did not have Christ it would be easy to gain a sense of righteousness for myself based on being able to help, or having a more successful life, but the cross doesn’t care about those things. Who’s keeping score? We all already lost, and he handed us the trophy.


About Jacquelyn Barnes

Former English Literature and Writing major at Whitworth University. Spanish Language minor. Browne's Addition Resident. Editorial Assistant at Gray Dog Press. Interested in postcolonial, multicultural, and feminist theories. Former ski racer. Longboarder. Runner. Member of Vintage Faith Community Church (we have no building). Painter. Morning person. View all posts by Jacquelyn Barnes

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