28 Aug What should I be doing? | And other questions about engaging culture
There’s no denying it. Our world, our city, and our neighborhoods are messed up places.
On a personal level, we all experience pain, loss, and suffering. And yet there always seems to be someone whose struggles are harder than our own.
All around us, there are people living in poverty or hardship- stuck in ruts of failure; it just seems like they can’t catch a break. As we encounter individuals in these types of situations, whether during an overseas trip or somewhere local, many of us feel a responsibility to do something.
But just what are we supposed to do? Who do we work with? Who do we give to? When do we say no? Is it even ok to say no to someone else’s needs, especially when they seem so much greater than our own?
These questions, or some like these, have probably crossed your mind at some point or another. While we can’t claim to have all of the answers, we can give you a few pointers and thoughts.
What should I be concerned about?
Responsibility and concern are two common categories for us. As Christians, we should be concerned about a number of injustices here and around the world- hunger, trafficking, third-world economies, abuse, orphans, poverty, disease, refugees. The list can go on and on. The pain and suffering surrounding these injustices remind us that the world we live in is fallen, broken, and in need of a Savior.
Concern looks like staying informed, aware, and prayerful about a variety of issues; however, we must know cannot tackle all of these as individuals, and probably not even as a church. Each of these issues are multi-faceted and multi-generational. They have existed for centuries, and there are no easy answers to any. Instead, we must humbly bring each of them to our Heavenly Father, trusting that His heart breaks even more than our own do.
Consider ways you can stay connected and aware of the events going on in the world around us. Read the newspaper or subscribe to a news app. Follow local news entities on Twitter or Facebook. Organizations like Operation World provide prayer guides and regular reminders about the needs that exist in countries around the world.
What am I responsible for?
We do, on the other hand, have a responsibility to move on some of these issues. Both individually and as a church, we can identify our God-given strengths and passions, couple them with the contexts and relationships God is placing before us, and make our move. The church is responsible for owning the cause of the weak and the vulnerable; we are living in the hope and redemption of the Gospel so that we can demonstrate both the justice and mercy of our God.
This is the reason we are engaging our community as a corporate body. From one-time events like Dental Access Day to long-term partnerships in Allendale, we are committed to righting wrongs and showing mercy. And we need you, the individual, to engage with us in these things. We need your willingness to suffer and sacrifice with us for the good of our city and our world.
How do your strengths and your passions complement what we are doing?
What has God put in front of you as an individual and as a family?
Where we live, where we work, the gyms and teams we are a part of, the schools our children attend- all of these are opportunities. And, like it or not, each of us have a responsibility to be a light in these situations. Sharing our lives, our joys, and our struggles with those around us can open the door for others to know the Truth.
We can open our homes to those neighbors who aren’t quite like us. We can go to lunch with our co-workers instead of eating at our desk. We can help coach our son’s little league team instead of sitting on the bleachers. And as we prayerfully move towards the people God has put in front of us, we will find ourselves with opportunities to speak and act in ways that demonstrate who God is.
When Jesus speaks of the difference between the righteous and the cursed, His measuring stick is quite practical. The righteous are the ones of whom He can say:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” [Matthew 25:35-36, ESV]
If we do not know who the hungry, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner are- if they are not ones with whom we interact with and care for regularly- perhaps we are in the wrong places. Maybe we need to intentionally seek out these people, or maybe we need to simply open our eyes and look around. May we be faithful in the things God has put in front of us.