When my sister recently decided to run for public office in the November 2014 election, she sent information about herself to local news outlets to “get her name out there.” A few days later, a reporter from one of the papers interviewed my sister. She asked, “I see you listed that you are a church deacon. What does that mean?” My sister proceeded to rattle off a list of duties that recalled Tim Keller’s comment that “deacons have evolved into janitors and treasurers.” “We make sure the church is clean and the lawn in mowed, line up maintenance and repairs, count the offering…” Then she said, “Occasionally, if the pastors are unable to do it, we visit the sick—” She said it just like that. As if it almost never happens, is the least likely thing for the deacons to do, and is somewhat less urgent than mowing the grass. But the reporter stopped her there and said, “You visit the sick?!” Do you see what is happening here? Even the smallest, most noncommittal act of grace is headline news to a world that is dying for lack of it. Maybe that is why the Bible says over and over that we must love the vulnerable. THIS is how we become a pinpoint of light in the darkness. These small, seemingly insignificant acts of unselfishness—sitting for a few minutes in a hospital room, giving a cold water bottle on a hot day, visiting a classroom of kindergartners.
As I look back through our reflections on Generous Justice, there is one obvious theme: go out and serve the vulnerable. Anna summed it up nicely on June 27, “The Bible makes it clear, we as Christians are required to serve the poor.” And seriously, if you are still questioning the truth of that statement you must not have read Generous Justice or, let’s be honest, the Bible. Anna went on to say, “We need to be obedient rather than adding our own great analysis to the validity of that command.” Unfortunately for me, when I stop analyzing, I’m left to simply admit my failure. And if there is one thing I hate more than failing, it’s admitting that I failed. Who’s with me? Fellow failure, let me give both of us a few words of encouragement:
- His grace is sufficient for me. If we desire to obey God, then let’s give our desires, our failures, and our hesitations to Him in prayer. Ask Him to show you what to do. Ask Him to make something out of nothing. Let’s just talk to our Dad and let Him cover it all in His power and goodness. Let’s give up on our own strength and righteousness and just surrender to Him.
- Let go of the enormous things. Sometimes we feel that if we can’t “make a difference,” we might as well just watch NCIS. But Jesus described the Kingdom of God as a mustard seed, yeast, wheat sprouts, a hidden pearl…tiny things. Let’s just perpetrate some tiny acts of grace and see how it goes. My sister didn’t tell the reporter she heals the sick, just that she visits the sick.
- It takes a village…or at least a church. I think our culture is way too focused on ourselves, even when it comes to ministry. My friend Nam very wisely told me, “When one person serves, that person gets the glory. But when a church serves, God gets the glory.” Not only is it easier to serve the vulnerable with our brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than by ourselves, it’s actually a better strategy for building the Kingdom of God. Pressure off!
I have loved spending the past two months steeping in Generous Justice. For me, Generous Justice is like a magnifying glass for looking closely at what the Bible says about our relationship to the poor. I will pick it up again when I need a reminder that “there is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor”. I will return to Jordan’s injunction to be “all in” and his reminder not to treat God’s stuff like its mine, to Nam’s incredible stories, to John’s thoughts on relationship. Of course, stay tuned to the blog. We’re going to keep unpacking the Great Commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself…). In August and September we’re going to focus on cross-cultural ministry and how churches can engage with the vulnerable. For now, I’m setting out to thread some tiny acts of grace into my moments and days. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirrorand, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25