Forgotten. That one word would terrify most of us. While there are many longings of the human heart, the ones of being needed and important reign supreme. The fact is that we all desperately want to leave a legacy, an imprint on those around us. We want to leave one that is so deep that if we were gone, we would be the topic of everyone's conversation. We would be trending on twitter. There is obviously many mega themes throughout the Scriptures, but one that will make that wanted imprint indelible is to humbly love the needy and helpless. Actually, this one issue is a measuring stick of whether we are genuine God-followers or just coldly religious.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
One book that has greatly challenged my perspective and my heart on this theme is a one called,“The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns. In the book Stearns explores Jesus' call to love our neighbors and shows us how to use our time, talents, and money to heal a broken world. While there are countless ‘stop and check your heart’ quotes, I will highlight just a few in this post. (found in red)
1. “When we say we want to be His disciple, yet attach a list of conditions, Jesus refuses to accept our terms. His terms involve total surrender”.
Ouch. This goes contrary to the current culture of ‘me first’. The call of Jesus goes beyond what is comfortable, easy, and humanly possible for us. God wants us to live above all that or else we are attempting to steal glory from Him.
2. “Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything… If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”
3. “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just” Abraham Lincoln
There is no kindness too menial, and no gift too small in reaching out to those marginalized by a life of tough knocks. A giant bank account is nice, but God never calls us to save all we have for a possible future need. Whatever we have right now is what He is asking for us to use. If it is small, then it is still sufficient.
4. “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic [malicious] words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people”
5. “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” Martin Luther King Jr.
6. “the rich man did not abuse Lazarus, didn't beat him or mistreat him; He simply ignored him, passing by him, day by day, with indifference… he was aware of the beggars plight, had the power to relieve his suffering– yet chose to do nothing… all too many [in the church] have been.. more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stain-glass windows.”
The biggest travesty of the church may not be that we did too little, but that we did nothing. Too many of us have so drown ourselves in technology, debt, and frivolous possessions that if a starving person was laying in our path to work, we would have to pat him on the back and tell him that help is on the way. And it is not just a resource problem, it boils down to a cold heart issue. Honestly we just don’t care. Try saying that out loud where you are right now. Go ahead. ‘I don’t care’. It is almost as difficult as saying ‘I am sorry’ right? Sometimes the truth hurts.
“I'd like to ask God why He allows hunger.. Injustice when He could do something about it.. But I'm afraid He'll ask me the same thing”
Oh boy. Is that not the truth? While we may wonder how a God of love could stand aside while people die of hunger and disease, we are walking on paper-thin ice. Everyday we could do something for someone in need. We would not have to venture on a plane trip to Africa or Papua New Guinea. We could go on a simple 15-20 minute ride to our closest town or city. We are so insulated that we think we only see such needs on the Nightly News or in National Geographic. God must wonder how we could see the need, and simply do nothing. And in doing nothing, we make the gospel a little more distant to those looking for love and God.
One last quote from the book. It is how I want to close. It stings me because I am guilty. I want to see people come to Jesus. I never want to be a cause of someone not coming to Christ. The distaste of our lack of compassion can really sting. This is how Mohandas Gandhi said it. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Maybe we just need to slow down enough to be able to notice the most obvious needs of people.. Maybe its not a homeless man, or a starving orphan. It could be a co-worker, a neighbor, or a person that sat in your pew last Sunday. In being more aware, we give the gospel some context in their life.
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