Unachievement

A few weeks ago, we began going through the book of James at church. Last week, we were in the end of the first chapter and spent some time talking about James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” When I have read this in the past, I always approached it like two different ideas, two different things that we needed to do in order to practice true religion, but our pastor suggested a different approach. What if we read this verse as one command – that the action of caring for orphans and widows is actually the way in which we keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. The process itself of our caring for those on the outside and margins of our society, the forgotten people groups, actually kepps us from being contaminated by the culture in which we live.

As I thought about this more and more, two things flooded back to my mind that I read over the last few weeks. The first is from Anne Lamott’s new book – Some Assembly Required. It is written as somewhat of a journal of her grandson’s first year of life. In one of the entries, she wants to communicate to her grandson the secret of life and she says this:

Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help, and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so that no one will know you weren’t there the day the instructions were passed out.

Two things really struck me about this – first, that we all must arrive at a place in life where we recognize that we, too, are flailing around, imperfect, broken and far from having all the answers. There is a need in life to let go of chasing after an image of ourselves where we appear whole, smart, and put together. Secondly, it is in this place of recognizing our own shortcomings that we can truly connect with other human beings, in particular, ones that society would tell us are ‘beneath us.’

As humans, we tend to always try to fit into the level above us, climbing up and up, associating with people who our culture dubs valuable. Jesus, however, demonstrated a different way, coming down into our filth to live among us in our dirt and grime. There must be something tangible in James’ statement that choosing to associate and spend our days serving the least among us is the very thing that keeps us from being polluted by the world’s ideas to seek more and more for ourselves.

The other item that I haven’t been able to move past yet comes from an interesting article I happened upon in Newsweek, (“Forget the Church, Follow Jesus” written by Andrew Sullivan). There are two quotes that really struck me. First, was his description of the doctrine of Jesus:

Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching.

The first few statements I know so well and have heard so many times, but it is the last, the idea of giving up power over others, that I haven’t been able to move past. Similar to Anne Lamott’s comment of the need to dominate and shame others as a response to hiding our own shortcomings, this concept of desiring power over others is, I believe, a real threat to truly living like Jesus, and it can be found in all areas of our society, and even more sadly, our churches, and yes, myself. It can be seen in how we pick our friends, how we decide on and promote our political views, how we communicate our stance on certain doctrines and the impact on those who differ from us, how we pursue wealth and feel like we are more accomplished than others who haven’t been as successful as us.

Sullivan, toward the end of the article, describes Christianity in a different light than how it may be perceived in today’s culture. He says, “It is meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement.” The religion of unachievement? Some of you reading this may automatically react in disagreement, that God doesn’t want us to be unachievers, but don’t dismiss this idea so easily. Let me give you one example of how this might play out. Chris and I have been talking about the challenge we sometimes face these days when people ask us what we are doing, where we are living, etc. It seems that the choice to follow God this last year has been one of ‘unachievement’ by the world’s definition, as we struggle to articulate that we are living with family, on support, and have given up most of what we owned a year ago.

It is a humbling, yet beautiful place to be and one that I do not think we would have discovered it we had continued pursuing the things we had before. I think James’ words are, in essence, showing us that associating with and serving the people on the outskirts, seeing Jesus in them, is part of the solution for keeping our eyes on Jesus and off of the pursuits of the world. This is the way to keep oneself from being polluted, from wanting to dominate or shame others in order to prove our own value. I can look at my life, the people I surround myself with, the places I go (and don’t go) and see how far it is I have to go to be able to consider myself as one who cares deeply for those being forgotten by the world. So many days, not even a fleeting thought is spared for the people James instructs me to focus on.

Jesus: “I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?”

John 5:40-42 (The Message)


Shining a Light

Sometimes, God speaks so fast that it is hard to catch it all. This week has felt a bit like drinking from the fire hose and I am not sure why that is but I love when God just pours His heart into ours. We started the Justice & Worship Tour last week and have spent the last few days in Las Vegas, experiencing this city and meeting some amazing men and women who are acting out the love of God to people who are in need. It is honestly difficult not to be discouraged in a city like this, where everything is free game and just walking down the strip guarantees that you will be face to face with every kind of darkness imaginable.
Chris and I tried to go out on a ‘date’ the other night to see a bit of the city and honestly, it was difficult to enjoy. As we were walking, Chris brought up the idea that you so often hear that ‘ignorance is bliss.’ He said, “You know, ignorance is really just ignorance.” Choosing or desiring ignorance is just a way of allowing yourself to pursue things you want without it affecting your conscience or triggering guilt. For so many coming into Las Vegas, ignorance is necessary for pleasure. We have found that once the scales fall off your eyes and the reality of human trafficking, forced prostitution, bondage to addictions, loneliness and loss of all self-worth are not something that you can walk in the middle of and not be affected.
It makes me think about what Jesus must have thought as He walked through the streets of the cities, having such a keen awareness of the hurting, broken world into which He stepped. As Christians, it is sometimes easier to condemn the world than to want to save it. We get either heavy-hearted about the state of things and have no faith to see the opportunity for change, or, we choose to avoid those places that make us feel this way, remaining instead in the comfort of our church buildings and nice, safe neighborhoods. But that doesn’t look like the Jesus that I have come to know and love. We need to be sober, to acknowledge the reality of sin, to acknowledge our part in it, and then to step into the dark places with the light that cannot be contained.
How often do you step into the dark places of your city? I ask myself this and get a lump in my throat. I know that there is so much that I have gained from my upbringing in the church, but there are also things that I have adopted that maybe aren’t as healthy. One of those is a fear of darkness and fear of being influenced by the world. Sometimes, as well meaning as it is, we teach young believers to be afraid of the world, of its vices and the darkness that can so easily suck you down. We are so concerned about the next generation falling into sin that we communicate a message that says, if you venture outside of the safe Christian bubble, you are going to fall. Chris and I both heard growing up, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future,” which can translate as “you should only be friends with Christians.”
What I realized now is that evangelism is incredibly difficult for me, a Christian who grew up surrounding myself with believers. Chris and I moved to San Diego, excited to be in a community where we could really reach those that didn’t know Christ but guess what happened – we spent 90% of our time in the church, with church people because that is our default and that is our ‘training.’ I have a sense that there are so many other Christians like us, taught to fear the darkness to a fault and aspiring to a Christianity that has neglected, if not forgotten, the mission of Christ.
This reminds me of the Christmas candlelight services that I have attended over the years, watching the candles get lit across huge auditoriums of people, thousands of lights in the same room, light shining on light. How beautiful would it be to see those lights move further and further out of the church building and into the truly dark areas of our cities.

One of the ministries we visited this week talked about Jesus words in John 10:37, “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me.” This verse keeps showing up in my life and reminding me of the mission of Christ, the mission He fulfilled and the mission He gave to us. We are to shine in the darkest areas because we are confident that God’s light always pushes out the darkness. There is no reason to fear darkness but instead, we should be running into it, declaring the power of God to save and redeem.
I would love to end this with some big challenge, but I am not really a motivational speaker and God is still spelling out for me what this looks like in my life. I can say though that little by little, fear is being replaced with a love for the lost that makes me forget my previous reasons for hesitation. I believe that the gates of Hell truly will not prevail against the overtaking love of the Father, and that, as a Christian of 30 years old, is a revelation that changes everything.

You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
Matthew 16:18 (The Message)


Spring Tour

First – my apologies. For some reason, I fell off the blog wagon but I am happy to report that I am still here, just a little delayed.

What does it look like to follow God into the unknown? I thought that I could have answered that last fall. It is mildly incredible to me that what seemed like the biggest leap of faith six months ago now seems like a baby step compared to where I am now. In two days, Chris and I and the Cunningham family will take off toward Las Vegas to begin the Spring Justice & Worship Tour. The interesting part? We really don’t have a tour.

For a variety of reasons that we still cannot figure out, we haven’t been able to get the bookings we expected. This is somewhat humbling to admit, feeling like we failed, running over and over again other ideas that we could come up with to get additional bookings. We’ve exhausted most of our resources and the door has closed on so many of them that we are left wondering what we did wrong. The oddest part about it all though is that we still feel like God wants us to do the Spring Tour, with or without tour dates.

Last Monday we spent some time praying about what we should do with Phil and Amy and felt that God still was asking us to go, bringing us the scripture of Abram’s departure from Harran in Genesis 12. Sitting around, waiting to see what panned out just didn’t seem right. Go where you ask? East, starting with Las Vegas. Then what, you ask? We are not entirely sure. We are trusting that God will speak to us as we step out in faith. We are doing this without the funds that we really need to support this tour and without tour dates to rely on getting any additional offerings.

It would be a lot easier to just say, “Oh well, this just didn’t work out like we planned so let’s give up” (especially for a planner like myself). In some moments, I am frustrated, wondering why God would not help us set up this tour the way that we had pictured it. Then I remember that God is God and His plans are better than our plans. We thought all along that this tour would look a certain way but God always has the best plan, even when we don’t get to see it. Sometimes, it feels a bit foolish to set out without really knowing where to go or what to do yet there is this part of me that expects to see God use us on this journey.

One beautiful thing that we all have talked about is that the flexible timeline can allow us to serve more in the cities we visit. This tour may present just as many opportunities to get our hands dirty in serving others as opportunities to do the Evenings of Justice & Worship. We are all a bit frightened, a bit uptight, and grasping tightly to the promise that God is going with us. So, another leap into the unknown with a wild, adventurous God? Our answer is yes.

P.S. I feel that it would be so much easier to save this post and share it after the tour, after God proved His faithfulness and I compiled stories to share, but that isn’t where these stories begin. They begin in the quiet evenings where we humans wrestle to lay hold of a deeper trust in God that moves us into action, despite all the earthly signposts tell us to pull back. Thanks to Phil and Amy for choosing to take this leap with us – we love you.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21


Privilege

Two weeks ago, Chris and I had the opportunity to attend our old home church here in Indiana. For me personally, as the service started and worship began I felt a sense of homecoming and belonging that was so refreshing.  Larry, the pastor preaching that Sunday, talked about advent and the birth of our Savior. He brought the manger scene into today’s culture, painting a picture of the poverty and depravity of the place where Jesus entered into our world as a baby.

During the message, he used a phrase that has been stuck in my head ever since. He talked about how many of us sitting in the audience come from a ‘heritage of privilege’ which can make it difficult for us to really grasp the scene.  I have been meditating a lot on what that means and how this reality has shaped my world view and my expectations in life. It became really clear to me that I, in fact, do come from a heritage of privilege as do many Americans. I have noticed, since that sermon, how my tolerance for and acceptance of difficulties that come in my life is a direct result of the privileges I have been afforded (shelter, food, education, toys, clothes, cars, and on and on…).

I have learned or been taught to expect success, expect opportunity, expect respect, expect fairness in life, and expect comfort. I expect God to take care of me in certain ways, mainly, continuing me on a path of privilege.  Yet, there are so many people who work hard and do the right thing and life is not fair to them and they do not have comforts to enjoy. There are many advantages and benefits to having certain privileges but I am not sure privilege is always the best shaper of Godly character.

As Chris and I have tried to walk through the last few months embracing the difficulties and new challenges that have come, I needed to consistently remind myself that I chose to follow God into this. I chose to trust God a few months ago in leaving my worldly comforts behind and yet I realized that subconsciously I thought he would just replace them with other ‘comforts.’ I guess I didn’t really comprehend how difficult it would be to not have stability and security when I had grown so accustomed to these things.

Now, I am starting to get it. I am starting to learn how to see God in the difficulties and struggle, in the grunt work and the questioning and the….’who knows how this is going to work out’ moments. In thinking about these things in the context of my heritage of privilege, I realize God has to reteach me what is important to him. For me to have his heart for the poor he needs to bring new experiences into my life. I need to go back to the stable that was smelly and dirty and unsanitary and understand how that very thing connected Jesus to the people He came to save.

Imagine if the story of Christ’s birth had a different setting. Instead of a manger, what if he were born into a King’s house, stately and rich with velvet cloth wrapped around him and his own nursery to grow in. What if it was surrounded by huge walls and a gate? I wonder how the shepherds would have felt visiting him there, smelling of the fields and their sheep? What a different picture Jesus gives us of his heart by the choice to enter into our world through the lowliest method.

 I think the more I understand this, the less I will pray for God to fix everything in my life and pray more that he will continue to allow me to experience difficulties so that my compassion and understanding of others would increase.  I don’t want to just be waiting for the rescue, I want to be present where he has me and have the faith to soak up whatever it is he wants me to glean from the path he has me on.

Even as I write this, I have to laugh a little because this is an ongoing battle for me, as my flesh still wants the easy path but my heart wants the narrow one.  I want God’s character but I wish there were shortcuts. Unfortunately, character only grows through testing and it can be dangerous to ask for the testing.  It is even harder not to grumble when it comes, but this too, I hope, is part of the journey. This Christmas, I want to grasp the depth of Christ’s humility to leave his glory behind and enter our world in a dirty stable. I think then God can show me how to follow him in these steps, putting up my heritage of privilege for a little while and viewing life from a different angle, learning to find joy in the midst of uncertainty and embracing the opportunity to share in others struggles.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

He took the humble position of a slave

And was born as a human being.

 

Philippians 2:5-7


Significance

As we have been traveling around the west coast talking about injustices in our world and challenging us all to respond with action, there have been two themes that have surfaced. The first is that ‘doing justice’ is really about obedience to Jesus. To some extent, this obedience is universal, taking the words of Jesus and applying them to or lives. On the other hand, it is very personal, where we must ask God what it is He has for us specifically and then be obedient to follow through on what He speaks to us. The second theme that follows is that we can’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. If we are being obedient to know what Jesus said, hear from Him regarding our own personal journey, and obediently follow through, we shouldn’t be stopping to compare ourselves to others.

Easier said than done.  We read stories and hear the news about amazing men and women who are literally impacting the world with their work and think to ourselves, what can I do that would measure up? There is no way what I do is as significant as what they are doing. Then, we fall back into paralysis, unable to shake the feeling that our efforts would not really make much of a difference. As we have shared these things at the Evenings of Justice & Worship, it continues to challenge me personally. It is easy for me to start feeling like the work we do isn’t enough, isn’t hands on, isn’t as good, but I have to remember that it is exactly what God has asked us to do and therefore it is significant.

A few months ago, I was reading through the book of Nehemiah and was struck by Chapter 3. This is usually the type of chapter that I would skim through because it seemed more like a long list than anything important. Nehemiah has just returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city as it was in ruins, making the nation vulnerable to attack. Chapter 3 begins to tell the story of how the wall was rebuilt. Amazingly, it seems everyone and every tribe in Israel was participating and doing their part to rebuild the wall. It wasn’t just the masons, but even Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes, is listed as participating. When you get into verse 19, the people listed here rebuilt the section of the wall directly behind their house…and then their neighbor built behind their house…and so on.

As I read this, it struck me that every single person’s contribution was critical to rebuilding the wall, whether they could build an entire gate, laying the beams and bolting doors, or they could only restack the bricks behind their own house.  God was showing me the impact that can happen when His people all get on board with the work He is calling us to do and do our piece, big or small. I think this is the picture of the kingdom of God, his people working together to accomplish something that seems insurmountable. God can use many small acts to make a big impact.

A few days ago, Chris and I went into Portland to visit Powell’s books. I picked up a book called Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, written by Mike and Danae Yankoski. I am only a little ways in, but they talked about the same idea in the introduction. It says, “Consider how Jesus speaks about even the tiniest gesture of love. Addressing those who cared for the needy, he said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40). Jesus isn’t talking about heroic, earth shattering accomplishments, but rather simple – and even obvious – responses to needs: food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, acceptance for the outsider, clothes for the naked, comfort for the sick, relationship for the lonely. If a child scrapes her knee, you comfort her and get her a bandage. It’s not rocket science. Jesus is talking about obvious responses to real needs. Despite their simplicity, God counts these actions as services rendered directly to him.”

Imagine what it would look like if we all, as a collective group of followers of Christ, were obedient to the call to do justice, care for the orphans and widows, the sick and the lonely, the oppressed and forgotten, in our own neighborhoods and cities but also around the globe? What if we all recognized the significance of small steps, small acts that together paint a picture of a God who cares, who hears, and who responds? I know that I will continue to wrestle with how to do this well and walk through my day with eyes open, attentive to the needs around me and ready to instantly respond when God prompts. I just want to be an encouragement that there are no insignificant callings, no act of love or sacrifice that goes unnoticed by God. Let’s be committed, big or small, to obedience and trust God’s ultimate plan and the part He has chosen for us.

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it….some parts of the body that seem the weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”

I Corinthians 12:27,22


Growth

The past month has been a whirlwind. We have barely stayed in any place more than 2 days and it is amazing to find myself here in Vancouver at our northernmost stop on the tour already. God has been doing so much, and while I truly know that He has been doing something through us, it has felt a bit like He is more focused on doing something in us. After you make a leap of faith and follow God on what seems like a crazy journey, there comes a point where the ‘steam’ of pure adrenaline and excitement may wear out and you truly come to a place of utter dependence. I do not mean that things are less exciting but just that you really begin to find yourself choosing to either continue bucking up against all of the uncomfortability or embracing it, since that very thing is what God is using to build His character in you.

Chris and I have been having some great conversations as we have driven up the coast, about faith, about dependence on God, about living in relationship, about calling, and about how we go about seeking God’s direction in every decision. Some conversations have been a challenge, where we are really wrestling through something together and figuring out how to have the right response. I think by God’s grace, only one of us has been totally overwhelmed at any given time, allowing the other to strengthen and encourage. As I think back on this month, two things stand out to me that God has been developing in Chris and I that I want to share. Amazingly, both of the things I have written about before but am gaining such a deeper perspective on now.

The first one is gratefulness. We have found ourselves easily falling into a trap of complaining or grumbling about something that went wrong or that wasn’t working out the way we hoped. It can be so easy to feed these feelings and let them occupy so much space in your mind that there isn’t room left for much else. Early on, Chris began challenging us both to continually be giving thanks for things. Randomly now, one of us will ask the other to list off some things for which we are thankful.

I remember at one point, we were in Pismo Beach and were waiting to hear if our truck was going to need more major repairs (after the $3,000 we already spent). I was sitting on the couch and I couldn’t help but cry. I recall literally wrestling in my mind about whether I was going to trust and be thankful or dwell on the difficulties in front of us. It was one on the first moments that we really decided, right then, to remember how God has provided and verbalize it. The beautiful thing was that it was the same evening that we got to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and we were truly able to be grateful in the midst of uncertainty.

I am learning that gratefulness, for it to really transform you, has to be a constant alarm going off where you can’t let much time pass before you remember to give thanks.  Somehow in a season where we have had to leave jobs, homes, friends, comfort, etc, we have found more to be thankful for than ever before.

The second one is prayer. There are a lot of different reasons for prayer. We pray sometimes because we are desperate, sometimes because we need an answer, sometimes just to spend time with God. On this trip, God has been teaching us about praying without ceasing, like it is part of breathing. I am not claiming that I literally am praying constantly, but Chris and I are catching ourselves earlier in difficult conversations where we may normally talk the issue to death and we are stopping to pray instead. Each time, we catch ourselves a little earlier, and sometimes, we can quickly move to praying about it first. We are always amazed, although we shouldn’t be, about the way our conversations go after we pray first.

For me, one of the biggest ‘aha’ moments on the tour is that following Jesus is really about the little moments that happen every day where we can choose to complain or give thanks, seek God or come up with our own ideas, love people or ignore them, obey Him or go our own way.  People may look at the big decisions we make to follow Christ and think, wow – they really are following God, but the true test of our commitment is visible only to those that get up close to us and see our walk, day in and day out. It is a lot of little decisions that move us forward and closer to reflecting the image of Christ.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


The Proof

Yesterday morning, I was reading through John and came across the following passage in John 10:24-25:

The people surrounded him and said, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.”

As I was meditating on this, I found it so interesting that as much as Jesus may have shared with the people that he was the Messiah, when he was questioned about this, his response was that the proof was in the work that he had done.  This seemed pretty incredible that Jesus, the Savior of the world, when asked who he was, stated that the answer was in what he did. Yes, he does tell people who he is but the validity of this truth is backed up by his actions.

As I thought about this, I considered a situation where someone may come up to me and ask, are you a Christian or a follower of Jesus? I could easily answer, “Yes, I am,” but that may or may not carry much weight. Could I say, as Jesus did, that the proof of my commitment to Christ is in the work that I do? Do the actions of my daily life clearly mark me as a follower of Jesus?

I can’t help but think that sometimes we define our Christianity more by what we don’t do than what we do. We can focus on the sins of commission and forget the sins of omission. I don’t lie, I don’t steal, I don’t use bad language, I don’t cheat, I don’t this or that. Maybe we add a few I dos, like I do go to church most Sundays, I do read my Bible occasionally, I do pray before my meals. I am not saying that any of these things are irrelevant but I am not sure that these things alone paint a clear picture of a Jesus follower. The I dos listed here – church, reading the Bible, prayer – are not the goal but the means by which we are equipped to know Jesus and to live like Jesus.

Jesus demonstrated a life of sacrifice, of taking care of the poor, the sick, the neglected by society. He poured his life into other people, fed them, talked to them, wept with them, and loved them. He had time for people. In today’s culture of busyness, every minute of my life is plotted. The other day, I was running errands and I was on a tight schedule. I made a wrong turn and had to make a U-turn. In the parking lot I pulled into, as I turned around, I noticed a woman with two shopping carts, sitting on the ground near the back, clearly homeless. For a second I thought, if I had time, I would like to go and talk to her. But I barely slowed down. I was back on the road within a minute.

I keep thinking about this woman and so many others that I have passed over in my life. It reminds me of the story in Matthew 25 where God separates the sheep from the goats, those who will enter heaven from those who will not. Those who cared for the lowliest of people, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, to them Jesus says that will enter heaven, for whatever they did for one of these people it was as if they did it to Him. I feel like there is opportunity all around me to minister to Jesus and yet sometimes I just pass by, too busy.

I have been re-reading A Simple Path, which is a book about Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity. This book reveals the approach to ministry that the Missionaries of Charity have, to embrace suffering and poverty in order to empathize with those they serve. They do this in order to follow Christ’s example of embracing the suffering of the cross to demonstrate His love for us. Above the crucifixes in all of their chapels worldwide are the words “I thirst” as a reminder to the missionaries of the implications of their work. Part of their constitution states: “Our aim is to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for love of souls. We serve Jesus in the poor, we nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, visit Him.” That just struck me, to be so focused on serving Christ through serving the suffering in our world. Their focus for their lives is to minister to Jesus through their ministry to the least in society. Just because I love it so much, I want to share Mother Theresa’s definition of the least in society. It is as follows:

The hungry and the lonely, not only for food but for the Word of God; the thirsty and the ignorant, not only for water but for knowledge, peace, truth, justice and love; the naked and the unloved, not only for clothes but also for human dignity; the unwanted, the unborn child; the racially discriminated against; the homeless and abandoned, not only for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands, that covers, that loves; the sick, the dying destitutes, and the captives, not only in body but also in mind and spirit: all those who have lost all faith and hope in life, the alcoholics and drug addicts and all those who have lost God (for them God was but God is) and who have lost all hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

These people are all around us, in our neighborhoods, on the streets of our cities, in the foster care group homes, in the AA meetings, in the break room at work, in the local bar. They are in the red light districts in Amsterdam, in the rice fields of Cambodia, the brick kilns of India, the brothels of Thailand, the war fields of Africa, the cholera beds in Haiti. The challenge is when we see them, the individual faces that surround us, do we want to serve them, suffer with them, and fight for them as Jesus did? Will observers be able to say of us, Christians, and the church at large, that the proof of our faith is in what we do – that we are set apart, marked as a people that cares deeply about the needs and the sufferings of others, so much that we would be willing to sacrifice our own comforts, time, and lives for their sake?


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