Wednesday, December 6

Showing God's Love to Everyone

For the Christmas season, Living Hope has started a new series that they are calling "M.A.D. Factor." The "M.A.D." stands for "Make A Difference," and the church is encouraging people to find practical things that they can do to make a difference in the life of someone else, particularly for people in the community who are not part of the church. The church is encouraging people to err on the side of generosity, and to be as discrete as possible, to the point of being anonymous if you can. They even have set up post-it boards in the foyer allowing for the sharing of ideas. I think that this is a really cool concept. I think that far too often Christians (and I have to include myself in this) leave too much of this kind of thing up to the church, and don't do enough of this as individuals.

I have only one complaint. And maybe "complaint" is too strong of a word. "Observation" might be more accurate. Whether it was intentional or not, when the ideas for "M.A.D. Factor" was presentented, the focus seemed to be on helping people meet the needs that they could not afford to do themselves. Very typically, when followers of Christ think about helping others, they focus on people in financial difficulty.

Let me make it clear, I am not saying that there is anything bad or wrong with helping the poor. Helping the poor is always good. Jesus tells us to do it, and, besides, it's just a good thing to do.

My problem is this - because we focus on the poor, we often don't attempt to show God's love to those who aren't poor. This is particularly a problem if your church is in a community that is more affluent. God plants a church in a community at least in part in order to reach that community. More people will come to Jesus because a follow of Christ demonstrated the love of God to them than will ever just stroll through the front door of the building. When we focus almost entirely on helping the poor, one of the unspoken messages is that we will share the love of Jesus with the poor, but the middle class and the affulent have to figure it out on their own. That idea doesn't match up with scripture.

Helping those in financial need is good, and we need to do it. But we can't forget that we also need to figure out ways to practically show the love of Jesus to those who have financial resources. In a lot of ways, it's actually easier to help the poor, because it's easier to identify the needs. If a single mom can't afford to fix her car so she can get to work, it's easy to see what the need is and then either provide the service of making the repair or the money so that she can take the car to the shop. It's not so obvious to identify either the need or the solution for most of the people who live on our block.

Let me give you an idea to start your thinking. This is something that I thought of too late to do anything about this year, but that I would like to make a Quest project for next year. When I was working for the law firm downtown, I literally had more money than time. Every morning I left for the train by 7:10 a.m., I didn't get home from the office until about 7:00 p.m. each night. So by the time I changed, got something to eat, and wound down a little bit, it was close to 8:00 before I would be able to do anything. Weekends then became the time to run around and take care of all of the things that I couldn't do during the week. The biggest gift that a person could give me was to do something that would give me some of my time back. There are many people in the Northwest Suburbs that fall into that category. This fall it occurred to me that a great project that we could do to give people some of their time back would be to rake their leaves for them. We could take three or four people and show up at houses in the neighborhood and say "hey, we're from the college age group at Living Hope Church, and we wanted to know if we could bless you by raking your leaves for you." I think that would be a great, pratical way to show the love of Jesus to our neighbors who aren't necessarily struggling to make ends meet.

Finding ways to help people with financial needs is a wonderful thing to do. But I want to encourage you to also find ways to demonstrate the love of Jesus to those in our community who don't have those kinds of financial needs. If we don't figure out ways to do that, there are going to be lots of people in our neighborhoods who will never experience the love of Jesus on a practical level.


TheBGRT said...

Bravo! Keep the ideas and thoughts coming Tim. People are changed by such subtle things such as little comments, passing exchanges, and things they feel passionate about.

Tigpan said...

Tim, this was awesome! I have often felt the same. I think that often those who are not "needy" in our eyes needy sometimes are more emotionally and spiritually needy than those that have financial needs. It is amazing sometimes to go to a more affluent area and simply hold the door open for someone coming up behind you. They look at you with this look of astonishment as so often in the world of the "rich and famous" everyone is so selfish that they often forget the little subtle things that make EVERY human feel special.