I’ve realized that preaching is never enough.
The Word has to become flesh.
After preaching for 30+ years, here’s what I noticed: At first, people will listen to the message of a messenger. But after awhile, people will want the messenger to be message itself. The life of the messenger must be the 3D movie of the message.
People don’t really listen to words anymore. People want to see the words becoming flesh in front of them.
It’s useless to talk about Jesus if you don’t become Jesus.
Unless you do that, all preaching is a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.
The Most Delicious Pizza In The Universe
Imagine that there’s this brilliant chef who owns the secret recipe of the most delicious pizza in the universe. He opens only one restaurant in Makati. No other branches anywhere else.
The restaurant’s name? Forget-Your-Name.
Why? When you sit down in the restaurant, the waiter will give you a piece of paper, instruct you to write your name on that paper, and ask you to slip it into your pocket. Because the moment you bite into the most delicious pizza in the universe, you’ll forget your name. When that happens, you have to pull out that piece of paper from your pocket to remind yourself who you are.
It’s such a delicious pizza that it would seem like a crime if you didn’t tell your family about it. So people would go home and tell their family, “You’ve got to go to the Forget-Your-Name restaurant. They have the most delicious pizza in the universe!”
And so the restaurant was always overflowing with patrons; in fact, the lines were so long, you needed to wait for 3 hours just to get in.
But one day, something weird happens.
Because the Owner of the Forget-Your-Name restaurant was a weird guy. It turns out he was immensely wealthy. And he wasn’t doing the restaurant business for the money. He just loved seeing people eat his pizza.
So he did something crazy: He posted the secret recipe of the most delicious pizza in the universe on his website. Anyone can now download the recipe. The exact ingredients. The exact measurements. The exact temperature. Every single detail.
Not only that, he also uploaded on youtube the step-by-step video instruction of how to make hispizza.
Now, you don’t have to go to the restaurant. If you wanted your family to eat the most delicious pizza in the universe, you cook it right in your home.
This, my friend, is exactly what God did…
The Secret Recipe Is Out!
God is the Owner of the restaurant. The Church is the restaurant. Jesus is the pizza. Because the main product of the Church is Jesus.
Let me shock you: I believe God doesn’t want you to bring people to Jesus. God wants you to bring Jesus to people. How? By being Jesus to somebody. The secret recipe is out!
This is God’s battle-plan to conquer the hearts of humanity. People will get to know who God is not by going to Church. People will get to know who God is by you becoming Church wherever you are.
This isn’t semantics. This is deep theology.
This in fact is the difference between Christianity and other religions. In other religions, you search for God. In Christianity, God searches for you. And even if you run away from Him, God will chase after you.
In other religions, God is only King. But in Christianity, God is King, yes, but a King who lays down His crown, leaves His throne, and becomes a servant who washes the feet of his disciples. He’s a King who is madly-in-love, head-over-heels, hopelessly smitten, die-hard Suitor who will not stop at anything until he gets you.
So let me say it again: Your mission isn’t to bring people to Jesus. Your mission is to bring Jesus to people. And you do that by being Jesus to somebody.
You Can Go Where I Can’t Go
Do you want to change the world? It won’t happen by a proliferation of Priests, Pastors, or Preachers. It will only happen by a proliferation of ordinary people (like you!) who become Jesus to somebody.
Preachers like me can’t be in your kitchen table, talking with your kids, listening to their dreams, affirming their worth, encouraging them to risk, accepting their wounds, correcting them in love, awakening their values…
I can’t be there. But you can.
Oh, there are some parents who think I can do that for them. They come to me distraught, asking me to talk to their rebellious, stubborn, misbehaving teenagers. They want me to be their miracle man. They ask me, “Brother Bo, can you talk some sense to my teenage son? Even just for 10 minutes. You see, he doesn’t listen to me. He’s taking drugs. He’s not in school. He’s wasting away his life.” They hope that a 10-minute conversation with me will erase 17 years of bad parenting. It won’t work. Yes, I can pray for him. Yes, I can listen to him. Yes, I can be Jesus to that boy for 10 minutes. But only the parent can be Jesus to him everyday.
Preachers like me can’t be in your office, supermarket, classroom, mall, farm, factory, ship. Only you can be Jesus to those people everyday.
This is God’s ultimate masterplan. This is how the Kingdom will be built: You becoming Jesus.
By your words. By your work. By your presence. By your service. As a secretary, cashier, clerk, teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer, businessperson… More importantly, as husband, wife, father, mother, aunt, uncle, daughter, son—Your mission is to be Jesus to somebody.
It’s Not About High Standards
I can hear you now. “But Bo, I’m not holy enough!”
That’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect to be Jesus to somebody.
You don’t have to have it all together.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know that. I was brought up to believe that to be Jesus to somebody, I shouldn’t smoke, or drink, or gamble, or go clubbing, or listen to secular music… I was brought up to believe that to be Jesus to somebody, I should memorize Bible verses and talk about God the whole day…
Later on, I realized that these high standards weren’t attracting unchurched people to God. They were doing the very opposite. They were turning them off.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t smoke or drink or gamble. But these aren’t the definition of a God-follower. I believe that the only high standard that unchurched people are attracted to is the high standard of love.
What does it mean to be Jesus for somebody? Only one thing. Do you die to yourself so that others may live?
That’s what it means to be Jesus to somebody.
What’s The Main Thing?
Jesus said it eloquently. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
He didn’t say, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you pray everyday”. Or “if you read the Bible”. Or “if you go to Mass.”
The proof that you’re a God-follower isn’t in your religion but in your relationships.
In other words, if you want to know if I’m a God follower, don’t ask me how many hours I pray. Don’t ask me how many Bible verses I memorize. Don’t ask me if I know the right doctrines. In fact, don’t ask me at all. Because my answers will be biased.
Instead, ask my wife, “Is your husband Jesus to you?”
Ask my kids, “Is your Daddy Jesus to you?”
Ask my mother, “Is your son Jesus to you?”
And ask my employees, “Is your boss Jesus to you?”
John Maxwell said, “Be disturbed if the people who love you the most are the people who know you the least.”
I repeat: The proof that you’re a God-follower isn’t in your religion but in your relationships.
The opposite is dangerous. When religion, and not relationship, becomes the main thing, two not-so-good things happen.
· We become prone to spiritual arrogance.
· We make a church for religious people only.
We Become Prone To Spiritual Arrogance
If religion, not relationship, becomes the main thing, we become proud of our religiosity.
Our religiosity becomes a barrier.
We look down at others who don’t pray, or who don’t read the Bible, or who don’t attend Mass, or who don’t sing our songs, or who don’t wear our clothes…
Because of this, the unchurched person asks a very penetrating question: “Do I really want to become like you—arrogant and condescending?”
And so they reject Christianity.
Something else happens when we make religion, not relationships, the main thing of Christianity…
We Make The Church
For Religious People Only
In other words, we become a church for insiders.
To be accepted in church, you have to behave in a particular way. You have to act in a particular decorum, speak in a particular language, dress in a particular style—or you’ll always feel like an outsider.
But if we make loving one another the main thing of Christianity, the Church will be a safest place on earth for the wounded, the lost, the messed up, the struggling, the sinner.
I think we need to put a big sign on every church door: No perfect people allowed inside!
What is the truth? We’re in church not because we’re perfect but because we’re forgiven.
Two Ways Of Becoming Jesus to Somebody
I love this passage. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)
Good deeds, not good debates, will open people’s hearts to God. I believe it’s service, not sanctity, that will touch lives.
Don’t misunderstand me. I use the word “sanctity” the way it’s commonly understood—someone who is pious. But in my mind, “sanctity” has a more robust meaning: Someone who serves.
I love that story when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. In Biblical times, there were four ranks of slaves. Only the lowest-ranking slave washes feet. Jesus took that role and said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Jesus didn’t just teach a way of life and said, “Do this.” Jesus served us, and then said, “Follow me.”
How do you serve?
Two ways of becoming Jesus to somebody: The heart and the hand.
The heart is the personal side of relationship.
The hand is the practical side of relationship.
You need both to be Jesus to somebody.
1. The Heart
One day, in a busy airport, a little boy was running to his mother holding a completed jigsaw puzzle in his hands. He was shouting, “I finished it, Mommy! I finished it!”
But at that precise moment, a businessman was also running, trying to catch his flight.
And the two crossed each other’s path. Wham! And the jigsaw puzzle flew into the air and hit the floor, scattering its tiny pieces in different directions.
The businessman said to the boy, “I’m so sorry…” He went on his knees and picked up the small jigsaw pieces.
And patiently, he put it back together again.
After 15 minutes, the puzzle was done. It was obvious now that the businessman missed his flight. And he should have been angry and frustrated. But he didn’t know why, but he wasn’t. In fact, he felt happy that he “wasted” his time with a kid doing a jigsaw puzzle.
When the man stood up, the little boy stood up as well. He looked at the towering figure for a brief moment, and asked a question that blew the man away.
The boy asked him, “Are you…Jesus?”
Somehow the boy knew that when he met compassion, kindness, dying-to-oneself-for-the-sake-of-others, he was in the presence of Jesus.
To be Jesus to somebody, you need to give heart. The heart is the personal side of relationship. Affection. Warmth. Touch.
But you also need to give the “Hand”…
2. The Hand
I’m a father of a family. And I need to spend time with my wife and my kids. That’s a non-negotiable thing I have to do.
But imagine this scene….
One morning, my wife tells me, “Bo, we have no food in the house anymore; I need to buy groceries but we don’t have money…” and I tell her, “What are you complaining about, Sweetheart? I’m always here at home, spending time with you and the kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…”
There’s something wrong with the picture.
To be a Jesus to somebody, you need to give the hand too. The hand is the practical side of the relationship. Excellence. Development. Achievement.
Are you a doctor? An engineer? A Teacher? A businessman?
In your job, God calls you to be Jesus to somebody.
How? Give heart and give hand.
Be excellent in all that you do. That’s the hand. But give your heart too. Do it with warmth, compassion, acceptance, and openness.
Last Word: Who Was Jesus To You?
Look back into your life.
Someone became Jesus to you.
You came to know God’s Love because somebody loved you without condition.
I think of my Dad. He was far from perfect. He never expressed his love for me by hugging me or saying, “I love you.” But boy, did he spend time with me when I was a kid.
He was Jesus to me.
I think of my Mom. Again, she’s got many weaknesses. But Mom loves me. At 86, she prays for me before the Blessed Sacrament every single day. (When she has extra time, she prays for my sisters.) When I’m preaching somewhere, I know that Mom is praying for me, and that gives me strength.
Mom is Jesus to me.
I think of my wife. She too has many weaknesses. (And if you think I’ll enumerate them to you now, think again. I’d rather be thrown to a pool of hungry piranha than face my angry wife asking me what I wrote about her.)
But she does something that astounds me no end. When I tell her my preposterous, out-of-this-world, “big, hairy, audacious” dreams, she doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t guffaw and roll on the floor. She smiles, looks at me, grips my hand, and says, “They’ll come true.”
My wife is Jesus to me.
I think of my professor in my Masters in Theology. I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I had failing grades in Grade School, High School, and College. I didn’t even finish College. I was just taking the Masters course because I wanted to study about God.
But my professor, a priest, called me in his office. He said he saw brilliance in me. (Huh?) He said, “After your Masters in Theology, go back to college and get your Diploma. And then we’ll send you to Europe to finish your Doctorate in Theology. There’s this great School there. We’ll pay for everything…”
I wanted to tell him, “Are you sure you’re talking to the right person? I’m not a good student. I’m a dunce. Pull out my transcript of records. It’s all there displayed in flaming red glory…”
But he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
That professor’s perspective of me changed my life forever. After taking up my Masters, I went back to college with vengeance. I got straight A’s there from then on.
That professor was Jesus to me.
Let me ask you: Who was Jesus to you?
Thank God for each one of them.
And everyday, resolve to be Jesus to somebody.
You don’t have to be perfect.
You just have to love them in your imperfect way.
May your dreams come true,
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