When it comes to those in need, the bottom line is: Christians should care. Why and how can Christians care like Christ? How can we give love like he did?
In journalism school, I read a book called Compassion Fatigue.
Living in Africa, I understood it.
When I first arrived, I noticed every need. Every child on the street. Every beggar by the road. Every person who crossed my path.
Two years later, I drove past them with little more than a backward glance. I kept my car windows up, and I said, “Not today” much more easily than I had ever imagined I could.
The constant sight of suffering had made me less empathetic towards it.
I know some of you are shocked to hear me say that. Some of you might judge, but let me tell you that we need to be honest about this because it can happen to all of us.
After all, images on the news can have the same effect , can’t they?
You turn on the TV and think “Who’s hurting today? More refugees fleeing? More children starving? More sickness? More death?”
The pictures are a constant parade of pain you can’t ease and suffering that seems ceaseless.
All the while, if we’re honest, we have to admit that sometimes…
We’re more worried about catching Ebola than caring for those who do.
We’re so busy being thankful that “there but for the grace of God go I” that we don’t realize we’re not showing compassion, we’re practicing pity. We’re looking down on the least of these.
And all the while, people need justice.
The oppressed need freedom.
The hungry need food.
The hurting need healing.
As Christians, we need to care that they do.
Proverbs 29:7 says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”
Some days, my heart hurts with those who hurt and longs for their relief. Other days, I’m good with my latte.
Selfish. That’s what I am….or at least self-centered. Whatever I call it, God’s word says it’s wicked.
And I can’t stay that way.
When I started going back to Kenya on a regular basis to work with women there, my heart was broken by how hard it had been when I left so many years before. Oh, I loved the people of Kenya, but I was walking around in a protective shell, trying not to collapse under the weight of the needs around me.
We often do the same thing here. Poverty is not restricted to the third world, and need is not always an ocean away. It’s just we don’t always come face to face with it at every intersection, and we try to legislate solutions rather than serving with love.
It’s really the same thing, isn’t it?
We just don’t want to get too close…
Because then we might have to care.
We might have to give more than we had planned to.
We might have to serve when we had hoped to be served.
We might have to get really uncomfortable so that we can really comfort others in need.
Which is exactly the example Christ set for us.
He who left heaven for earth and infinity for time, who walked with weary feet when the earth had been his footstool, who held the riches of heaven yet became poor for us…He showed us that love doesn’t stand at arms’ length. Love leans in.
It reaches out in love rather than reacting in fear.
Love gives like Christ did, selflessly offering itself.
Lord, please soften my heart for those in need, whether they live a world away or down the street. Forgive me when I am too self-centered to see the needs around me and too selfish to try to meet them. Defend the poor and the fatherless, Lord, for “it is from the Lord that one gets justice.” (Proverbs 29:26)