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The higher road

The higher road

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

The higher road

April 26, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0664}

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Jerry Sweat**

In Matthew 5:40-42, Jesus says: “If someone wants your tunic, let him have your cloak, as well. If someone compels you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus’ way of giving is so much more than our way. Jesus says go well above and beyond expectations when it comes to the generosity of your life: we count our pennies while he gave it all; we begrudgingly let go of small amounts of our time while Jesus laid down his life.

Most of us will give out of convenience, but oftentimes “pass by on the other side” those who might cause us to divert off our given schedule or plan.

At Beach United Methodist Church, an unfolding story of generosity has captured our attention, gripped our hearts and taught us a “higher road” of giving.

A few months ago, Greg Bowlus, our worship arts pastor, mentioned to our praise team that Scott Johnson, one of the musicians in the 9:30 a.m. worship band, was going to have to go on dialysis. He had suffered most of his life with the use of only a small percentage of his kidneys. Greg asked for prayers and that God would raise up a kidney donor, Scott’s only chance at a different life and future.

Immediately, people began to pray for Scott. Shortly after that night, several people offered to be tested as a possible donor. Greg Gause, one of our praise team singers, volunteered to be tested. Scott and Greg didn’t really know each other, other than being on the same praise team.

Greg wound up being a possible match.

Over the next months, Greg went on a disciplined diet and exercise schedule in order to get his “body mass index” where it needed to be as a kidney donor. He gave up large portions of workdays to go to Mayo (Clinic), where he was poked and prodded through endless tests and blood work. He had to talk to psychologists to make sure he wasn’t losing his mind — funny how the world perceives godly, sacrificial love as “madness” — and remind him of the risks. He had to sign papers releasing everyone from responsibility if he lost his life on the operating table.

On March 7, Greg and Scott reported to Mayo for surgery, along with a small army of family, friends and Beach United Methodist Church members. When the surgery was complete, Scott, for the first time in his life, had a healthy kidney. He reported feeling “better than he has ever felt in his life!”

In the end, Greg actually has less kidney than Scott, but both have more than enough kidney to live productive lives. Both are recuperating nicely. They now consider themselves “brothers.”

“I have Greg’s kidney; he has my heart,” Scott said after the operation.

Is it any wonder? Our lives are touched forever by this act of extreme generosity; our hearts are moved by this kind of radical sacrifice. This kind of love catches us by surprise in an oftentimes “stingy” world and brings us to our knees in gratitude and humility. It is the real deal. It is what Jesus would do.

Our greatest trademark as followers of Christ in an unbelieving world is not our buildings. It is not in our music or preaching. It is not the “fish magnets” we put on our cars or the crosses we might wear around our necks. It is in our radical love. Jesus put it this way: “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

We give God thanks for Scott and Greg. God has used their story to point us to the higher road we are called to travel.

This article relates to Christian Discipleship.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Sweat is senior pastor at Beach United Methodist Church in Jacksonville.