Throughout scripture we hear about God’s heart for justice. The prophet Micah instructs,
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”(Micah 6:8).
God cares about how we care for the marginalized on this earth because they lack the power to demand justice for themselves. They are easily taken advantage of by the more powerful. When God’s people act without justice, it inspires God’s rage. God has little patience for those who do not extend the grace that he extended to them. God’s desire is that we become channels of his grace and reach out with compassion to the least of these.
In fact, caring for the marginalized is the standard that Jesus says that he is going to use when he returns to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). It is important for us treat other people with the welcome that we would give to Jesus if he were present in our midst.
We can be full of excuses, if not lies, for why we ignore opportunities to reach out to others. The poor bring it on themselves. There are institutions that will help. They're probably guilty of something. They will just use my help foolishly, either spending a gift in a destructive way or becoming dependent on my help.
And while some of these may be half-truths in individual cases, most people need help at times of crisis and are grateful for the assistance. And none of those reasons excuse Christ followers from God's call to generously share the gifts we have been given and to honor those in need as God's image bearers, engaging them as human beings.
We fret over refugees and immigrants entering our countries, forgetting that many of us have histories of once being refugees. The Ten Commandments--our guide for holy living--begins in Exodus 20 with a reminder: You were slaves in a foreign land, but I rescued you; now be sure to act like my people. Jesus himself was a refugee and he has instructed us to welcome the stranger as our requirement for heaven (Matthew 25:35-40). The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”(Hebrews 13:2). God may be using a current refugee crisis or natural disaster to give Christians an opportunity to share the love of God into a region or to people that they might otherwise have been unable to reach.
So what can we do to make a difference?
Ask God for chances to bless others with his compassion and he won’t let you down. Let yourselves be open to God’s leading and trust that he will bring people for you to bless when you are open to his leading. Start your day submitting to his leadership and asking God to open doors for serving others.
Open your eyes to the needs in the community. As you see people hurt, pray for them; ask God how you can be a blessing to them. From needs you hear about in your church bulletin to struggles you read about in your local newspaper, opt to step in. Inquire through community organizations how you can be a part of giving to others. As you hear about needs, consider how God informed you for the purpose of caring for that need.
Tune in to hear the opinions of others who have perspectives different from your own. Listen carefully without interrupting or offering another opinion. Give the gift of compassion by taking the time to understand another perspective. Everyone comes to their opinions based on their experiences in life, so take the time to honor someone’s story. Our lives our richer when we can see beyond ourselves to walk a mile in a neighbor’s shoes.
Getting involved with ministry opportunities is the best way to come alongside those in need. Getting to know people makes needs more concrete and involves us in being a part of things. Are we involved in ministry that gives us opportunities to be Jesus’ hands and feet in our community?
When our eyes see injustice, it should raise some righteous indignation within us. We should be writing our mayor and legislators to make sure that our communities are looking out for the citizens who don’t have their voice represented. Sign petitions, post articles, or join a march to help those suffering injustice.
God often moves us well beyond our comfort zone to help others. Serving does not come at convenient times or easy ways. We are often faced with opportunities that involve us moving past what feels safe or convenient. Outside our comfort zone we discover God’s strength to help us do what seems beyond our capabilities. Consider how God may be challenging you to go outside of your comfort zone and stretching you to develop new muscles of service.
Involve your family in choosing ministry causes that you can sponsor and become a part of living out God’s kingdom. Giving offers opportunities to have a role in caring for needs. Create a fund that you can use to bless others as ministry needs come to your attention.
Fear holds us back and keeps us from giving of ourselves, but God does not want us to be afraid , “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Don’t let fear limit you from reaching out into the lives of others, but choose to boldly follow God’s heart to care for his hurting people.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema