Saturday, June 1, 2013

Are We Going to Just Let This Happen?

Compassion for people in need, and helping people in need, is SO important. And for anyone who claims to follow Christ, it's simply non-negotiable. If we as Christians won't help those who hurt, who will? If we won't feed the hungry, visit the sick, and comfort the grieving, then who will? Forgive me if I get a little too preachy and long-winded in this post or if my writing is a little more raw and unrefined than it usually is, but this is just too important not to talk about, and this is one of my deepest passions.

The question that's been on my heart lately is this: Are we going to just let this happen? Are we going to just let people in Africa starve, or children in Romania freeze in the winter because they don't have warm clothes or blankets, or let people die of preventable diseases, or children be conscripted into armies and sex trafficking? And we can, of course, bring the question closer to home: Are we going to just let that fellow student be bullied and not be a friend? Are we going to let the struggling single mom end up unable to pay her rent and care for her children? Are we going to ignore the needs of thousands of children in foster care, or children who don't really have any adult they can look up to in their lives? Ultimately, are we going to leave our neighbor--whoever that is and whatever color their skin is and wherever they're from and whatever their "issues" are--laying beaten up by the side of the road?

Are we really ok with this?? When people just don't care about the needs of others, I just want to yell at them and be like, "Doesn't it even bother you to think about the same happening to you? Wouldn't you be hurting and lonely and desperate if you were in their situation?" Maybe we just lack the empathetic imagination we need, the ability to perceive the plight of others and to care enough to get off our butt and do something. How can it NOT bother you? Compassion requires that we be able to imagine the suffering of another, to put ourselves in their shoes, to, as a fabulous quote from To Kill a Mockingbird puts it, "step into their skin and walk around in it." We desperately need this empathetic imagination. I crave it. Lord, let me feel what they feel, cry with them and rejoice with them. I need to feel my neighbor's tears on my face and their smile on my lips.

And before I write another sentence, let me make a couple things clear. In my opinion, it is totally false that everybody should move to Africa/ Asia/ a Third World country to help with the need there, or that it's "lesser than" to be more passionate about helping people who hurt right here in the US, or in our neighborhood, than in foreign lands. I'm not going to mince words--it's simply B.S. to create gradations of compassion or to say that one person's way of showing it is less worthy and valuable than another's. I've read plenty of books that pretty much suggest exactly that, and I beg to differ. We're not all called to show compassion in the same way. We're not all passionate about meeting the same needs, and it is not my intention to guilt-trip anyone if some of the needs I've mentioned already are not where YOU feel led to pour out your efforts. In fact, maybe we'd have an easier time showing compassion if people would just stop judging how other people show compassion and shed the holier-than-thou attitudes like last year's fashion. No, we're called to rectify ANY injustice. ANY. Any sorrow or heartache, any pain, any loss, any desperation, any need.

And secondly, if you've read my blog for long enough, you know I'm not a fan of the "religion of social justice" and compassion is not what gains us right standing with God. But Jesus talked and talked and talked about helping the poor, the widow, the sick, and the orphan, and I just can't sit back and ignore it anymore. And throughout the Bible, God has always emphasized how desperately important it is that His people be a people who help. You can't say it much more clearly than it's said in Jeremiah 22:16: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy. . . . Is that not what it means to know me?"

Or in Isaiah 58, and this passage is so amazing I'm just going to copy the whole thing: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? . . . . If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings." Spending ourselves on behalf of others . . . wow. That is the high calling we have.

And probably the most important statement Jesus ever made about this topic was this: "Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done for me." And I believe we could also say, "Whatever we don't do for the least of these, we have not done for Christ." Since Jesus didn't turn his back on me, I cannot--and I will not--turn my back on them. Jesus had the ultimate compassion. He wrapped himself fully in our pain and heartache. He walked among us and bled and cried and felt deeply.

None of us can give it all or do it all or be it all, but we all can do something! We all have either time, or money, or talent, or a VOICE to offer for people in need. It's time for us to start considering whether, by NOT doing anything,  we're acting like we're ok with it, and in our silence and in our inaction giving a tacit seal of approval to suffering.

For me, I am most passionate about helping children. I don't particularly see myself being a mother myself, but I have pictures on my fridge of the two beautiful little girls I sponsor in Africa and we write letters back and forth and I feel like they are "my" kids. I want to be an attorney so I can fight for children who have no voice, for children who live in abusive and broken homes, to give a future to children who don't have one. This fall when I start school again, I want to start volunteering at my local adoption agency. Maybe your passion is the homeless, or fighting for unborn children, or opening your home to people who've hit hard times. You decide how much you can give, and that's between you and God. No one is "better" than anybody else just because they happen to give more hours of their time or dollars from their pocket, or even a greater percentage of their overall resources. We are all called to help, to defend others, to fight for those in need, and to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

Are you going to let this happen? If not, what are you going to do about it?

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