I remember the first few days of AIM. I was astonished at the lack of sinful people around me. I considered leaving because I didn’t think I would ever be like them. I thought they would find me out for who I was, and soon. But when I thought of actually going home to explain why I quit to my supporters, that seemed even worse than staying. I mean, what was I going to say? Mr. Elder, it was terrible. I decided to quit because they were all so “holy.”
For the first few weeks, I only focused on not doing anything wrong. It was hard at first, but that AIM bubble helped me make it though some tough spots. After a few weeks I got better at it, and after a few months I was doing great - not the greatest AIMer ever at this point, but light years from where I was on that first day. Then I got to the field, and things were wonderful: I was teaching, preaching, getting involved in people’s lives, and I was even lucky enough to dunk a few. By the way, I’m the greatest baptizer in the world. Years of having a swimming pool in the back yard and 2 younger brothers will do wonders for your dunking arm.
Then I came home. Wow. Things were different. I was no longer the missionary. Once the dust settled, I had few responsibilities at church. People didn’t seem to be interested in what I had to say like they did in South Africa just because I was an American, go figure. I started to get bored with going to church. I started making excuses to myself about why I didn’t have time to evangelize, or study my bible, or even be kind to someone who needed it. I remembered what things were like before I left, and I tried to fit back into that routine because it felt safe. Before long reverse culture shock set in and I was just trying to make it through the day, just trying to make it through life, and hoping to make it through to eternity. It was terrible.
It didn’t hit me at the time, but, spiritually, I was moving backward. I was back to just trying to not do anything wrong again, and I had buried my talent. My reverse culture shock didn’t come from missing South Africa, like I thought at the time; it was from missing the lifestyle of sold out service for the Lord.
In the book If Only, Dr. Neal Roese describes the 2 kinds of regret. First is the regret of action, or the sins of commission. Second is the regret of inaction, or the sin of omission. I think we all struggle with this regret of inaction.
I don’t know what’s in your life exactly, but I’ve never done those terrible sins that you hear about. I’ve never committed murder, I’ve never committed adultery, and I’ve never stolen someone’s life savings. Yes, I have done things that I wish I hadn't done. But for me, my biggest regrets aren’t what I have done, but the things that I was too big of a coward to do. There would be something that I knew I needed to do, something the Lord had placed on my heart to get accomplished, but I wouldn’t do anything.
The church has been fixated on the sins of commission. We have these long lists of don’ts. Our attitude has been of spiritual maturity by subtraction. In other words, if I don’t do this list of sins for 20, 30, 40, 50 years then I will become spiritually mature.
Mark Batterson writes in his book, In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day, that when you think about it, spiritual maturity should be by multiplication. Goodness is not the absence of badness. We can’t do enough nothings, we can’t subtract enough, and we certainly can’t just run away from sin in order to become spiritually mature. Our calling is much higher than to simply step away from what’s wrong. Yes, keeping sin at bay is part of it, but not all. You can do nothing wrong, and still do nothing right. Trying to live a life without sin while neglecting works of service is deadly to your soul.
The reason that ruler in Matthew 25 was so upset with the wicked servant for burying the talent is because that was the only sure fire way to accomplish absolutely nothing. When we bury our talent it’s no wonder Christianity is boring to us, and this lifestyle is not attractive to people watching us, because it’s just a list of things not to do. It doesn’t get the blood pumping.
To one extent or another we all know this to be true, maybe we just haven’t put it in words yet. Think about it. If you were at work and at the end of the day your boss came in and asked what you got done that day, if you said, "Nothing, not a thing. But I didn’t hurt the company either, so we’re good," what would he say? James says, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do."
We fill our days with things that in the grand scheme of life and eternity mean very little, and then we make excuses and say that we don’t have time to serve the Lord. But when we make the realization that acts of service to the Lord is one of the few things in the cosmos that does actually matter, we free ourselves from the lie that doing nothing wrong is enough. So the next time you think to yourself, I really should go talk to my brother about the gospel, or the next time God puts someone in your path to show kindness to, when you feel that blood pumping in your veins, GO DO IT. Look for those God-ordained opportunities in your life, and dig up your talent. Start changing your lifestyle back into that sold-out service for the Lord. That’s when the Lord will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Jeremy “Tigger” Vass