I am part of the first generation to grow up playing video games. Like most children of the 80’s I started on an Atari 2600, moved on to a Nintendo Entertainment System, and I have not stopped playing video games. In my lifetime I have played a lot of video games. Thanks to Xbox achievement tracking, I can count that since 2006 I have played 353 different games on a Xbox system. This does not count the many games I played before 2006. I have played video games across all systems and genres. Of these hundreds of video games I have played, one of my absolute favorite games is called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In gaming terms Skyrim is a fantasy action role playing game in an open world. What this means is that to play Skyrim, players create a character, and then that character is put into a digital world. In that world the player can go anywhere and do anything within the confines of the game. It is up to the player to discover and essentially create the story of their character, and Skyrim gives a ton to explore. The world that can be explored is a digital sixteen square miles, and there are 244 quests options available. Again, for those who have never played a game like this the player can go anywhere in that digital space and they can choose to complete or ignore any of those 244 quests. It is truly an incredible game and an amazing experience.
There are some other games of a similar nature, but I think that Skyrim is the best. I notice though that I behave differently in that game than I ever would in real life. I am pretty big introvert. To put it mildly I am not at my most comfortable in a room full of strangers. I tend not to be someone who is quick to engage a random person I have never met in idle conversation. However, when I am playing a game like Skyrim it is the exact opposite. In Skyrim, you can never quite be sure who will happen to have a quest ready to be completed, so I run around that game mashing the interact button like crazy in an effort to talk to everyone and find a new quest. Like most people, on most days, I go about real life doing the things I have on a “to do” list to get done. However, in the digital life of Skyrim I am more concerned about finding a great quest and going on an adventure. In the gospels, Jesus challenges his disciples to live life differently. Instead of going through our daily routine once again, what if we approached every day looking for a new quest and a new adventure?
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus points out a problem to his disciples: “The harvest plentiful but the workers are few.” The implication here is that there are lots of people who were in need and ready to be receptive to the good news that Jesus was going to bring them. However, Jesus knew he was on the clock. He knew that he only had so long on this earth to share that good news with as many people as possible, so he sets forth a solution. He gave his disciples a quest. He instructed them to go. He sent them out and expected his disciples to do big things. This was a bit unusual at the time. In the rabbi-disciple relationship the disciple was supposed to learn to imitate the rabbi through intentional listening and observation. This event occurs fairly early on in the gospels, so there is no way that Jesus’ disciples had enough time to truly learn how to imitate him. This gives the impression that Jesus wanted his disciples to have more than just observational training, he wanted them to put it into practice while they were still learning. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we seek to model our life after his. We seek to imitate him in how we live with others, love others, and serve others. Like the original twelve disciples we are not meant to do this just through passive observation. We are meant to learn how to be a disciple by putting our faith into practice. We are to learn by going on a quest.
Most of us live life mostly unconcerned about the people around us. Honestly, we treat the people behind a checkout counter, next to us in line, or in the same store to us as non-player characters in a video game. We more or less think of those people as part of the background of wherever we are. However, we should shift from viewing other people as NPCs. In order to move towards having a perspective that allows us to be a questing disciple, we need to see people as Jesus sees them. Matthew 9:36 beautifully sums up how Jesus saw people: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus took time to notice people. He did more than just notice them, Jesus has compassion for them.
We need to change our perspective. When we are in a crowded place like a grocery store, a restaurant, or a school we should realize that every person there is created by God, loved by God, and that God desires to have a vital relationship with them. We should have compassion on all of those people, because I guarantee that in a room full of strangers every single person there is struggling with something. We may not be able to tend every hurt or enable every dream, but there might be somewhere that we can help. We might be the right person at the right time that God can use to make a permanent difference in the life of someone else. However, we will miss out on that great quest if we do not have the right perspective. Our perspective must seek to recognize that everyone around us has sacred worth and we have to have hearts open enough to have compassion.
The final thing to consider is what the disciples did when Jesus told them the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. They went. The instructions to the disciples were clear: go! Following Jesus, having compassion for people going into the mission field; these are not academic theoretical ideas. To be a faithful disciple we have to do them. We have to go! All disciples of Jesus Christ have received the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness. We have received the confidence that God is always with us. We have received the hope and the joy that there is more to existence than just our daily routine. We have received the acceptance of being God’s people. It would be a shame, no it would be a sin, if we kept that to ourselves. The harvest is plentiful. There are so many people, who need the good news that we already know. There are so many people who need someone to give them a second chance. There are so many people who are desperate for someone else to notice them and have compassion for them. If the workers are few, then that is on us. If the workers are few it is because we still need to go. We, I, should approach being a disciple the same way that I approach video games like Skyrim, always looking for the next quest.
May you learn to better follow Jesus, by putting the teaching of Jesus into practice. May you have the same perspective of Jesus. May you truly notice other people and have compassion for them. May you love them the way that God loves them. May you find that God does indeed have a new quest for you to love your neighbors, to make disciples, and to transform our world.