Entry two of a six-part series
Have you ever read one of those self-help books? For those of you who haven’t or aren’t familiar with the term a self-help book is a book written with the intention of instructing you, the reader, on how to solve your personal problems. If you have a problem with shyness just read The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. With spelling? Read How to Splell Corecty. Finances? Read How to Print Your Own Money. Are you sick and need healing? Maybe Sarangetti’s Do-It-Yourself Miracle Cures will help. Whatever your problem is you can no doubt find a self-help book to steer you on your way.
As our culture turns to books, videos and self-help guides for the solutions to their troubling problems we the church know we have the answer, and that answer is Jesus. No matter the struggle – We need more Jesus.
What if however, the way you connected to or experienced Jesus required more than silence and solitude? More than reading the scriptures and prayer? What if experiencing Jesus also required confronting others needs and sacrificially serving in the face of discomfort and poverty? Is that possible? Can we experience the fullness of knowing Christ without serving and loving others?
It is critical for Christians to be involved with the poor because our involvement with the poor helps us grow.
Matthew 25: 34-40 states:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
In serving the least of these we serve Jesus. It is in their pain, suffering, isolation and hunger that we see Jesus’s face. But why? Why does serving the vulnerable put us face to face with Jesus?
There are many things that happen when we decide to walk alongside and love someone else, but most importantly we experience a momentary mind shift. In the moments of giving ourselves away for others we aren’t thinking about ourselves. Our focus shifts from our personal needs (“me first”) to them and their needs. That instant becomes about more than us – it becomes about others and it is in those moments of vulnerability that God can teach us and meet us. He reveals his peace in chaos, his strength in our weakness and his faithfulness in our vulnerability. Simply put he meets and changes us.
In living out the greatest commandments of loving God and others we begin to experience Christ and the life he modeled. We experience what being sent like Jesus was sent, is all about.
Our own spiritual health is impoverished if we are not entangling our lives with others.
I just read a blog entry from a close family friend wrestling with the messiness of fostering children. As she shared her fears, hesitations and frustrations I couldn’t help but see how God is shaping her through this experience. He is taking a messy situation and revealing his loving character. Her experience is heart wrenching and yet beautiful at the same time. I see a family growing deeper in Christ through loving others. It’s not been without difficulties but then again when has loving others and the consequences of doing so been known as easy?
Salvation begins with the understanding of need and submission; sanctification continues in it. In order to grow spiritually we must have a continual understanding of need. In reality, our own spiritual health is directly connected to our ability to recognize our own personal deficiency. When we love others, especially the vulnerable and needy, we experience messiness. In that messiness we turn to God for direction and help – and God never fails. He will not only give us the strength to keep loving and move forward but he will shape our attitude and perspective along the way.
As the church if we want to grow we must be involved with the poor and vulnerable. Not because the poor need us but because we need them. They bring their need and we are given an incredible opportunity to act. The answer to the problems of our world is not a self-help book, it’s more Jesus.
As a church leader or pastor if you want your congregation to grow and experience the fullness of God then there is nothing more valuable than encouraging their involvement with the needy. Like many things in the Bible loving the vulnerable follows an upside down concept – the more you give up for the sake of others the more you gain in opportunities to know Christ. It’s messy and difficult but critical for our spiritual health and growth.