This past weekend, I was able to be at a college graduation. It was inspiring to see many young people passionately planning for how they were going to go out and shape the world. There was a significant amount of discussion about social justice and helping those in need. I love that. As believers, we must be helping people who cannot help themselves. The Bible is clear that religion that pleases God is taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. (James 1:27) In Matthew 25, Jesus welcomes people into his kingdom. He explains that by saying, “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.” When did anyone do that for Jesus? When they helped someone in need. This is not to say that being kind gets a person into Heaven. However, it is clear that those who are in God’s family will be those who are helping the needy. So let’s talk about what that looks like right now in our culture and in our church:
1) Addressing Race
With racially charged happenings occurring lately throughout the culture, this is a big deal. There is real injustice occurring. We do not need to get into a tense discussion about what the government should or shouldn’t do. We do not need to get into heated debate about who is the victim. What we must do is love. As believers, we are called to love our neighbors like we love ourselves – white, black, rich, poor, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, literate, illiterate, healthy, sick and so on. We do not pick our neighbors. We just love them. And we need to see that we are needy in many ways too. We are all in the same boat – broken. So how can we love well in this situation? Here are four ways:
- Pray. Look beyond yourself and your own life. Go to the throne of God with the needs of others. They are real needs from hurting people. Be broken with and for those who are broken.
- Have mercy. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume the worst about others. Look for opportunities to be there for others and to serve them in their difficulty.
- Remember the Gospel and truth of God. The problems in any community are complex, but the simple truth is that God has the answers. Jesus makes people new. God’s principles lead to wholeness.
- Fight for life and against abortion. This is one of the most devastating forces attacking the black community. For a great site, check out: http://onlineforlife.org/ and for a local place to serve go to: http://www.phcchesterfield.com/
Two eye-opening and heartbreaking facts on this matter:
- 69% of African American children in Baltimore are living without a father in the home. (http://www.frc.org/op-eds/baltimores-missing-fathers)
- In 2012, more black children were aborted than born in New York City. (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/nyc-more-black-babies-killed-abortion-born)
To Jesus and to his church all lives matter – black lives included. Jesus died for black people just like anyone with any other color of skin. At this point, there is hardship in the black community. Like Jesus, we should go to where the hardship is and serve. Let’s be a voice and a hand of love, support and hope in the midst of a truly difficult time for many.
2) Making a Difference in South Dakota
While is it less discussed than the #blacklivesmatter issue, there is a real problem at the Pineridge Indian Reservation. Like many minorities, racism against American Indians is a real and daily tragedy. On the reservation, poverty, abuse, alcoholism, disease and much more is constantly present. Take note of these statistics:
- Unemployment rate of 80-90%
- Per capita income of $4,000
- 8 Times the United States rate of diabetes
- 5 Times the United States rate of cervical cancer
- Twice the rate of heart disease
- 8 Times the United States rate of Tuberculosis
- Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
- 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
- Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
- Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
- Infant mortality is three times the national rate
- Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate. (http://www.re-member.org/pine-ridge-reservation.aspx)
That is a bleak sounding description that only scratches the surface of the issues there. There are so many needs. Thankfully, Real Life is striving to make a tangible difference this summer. Here is what you can do:
- Pray. The people are tired. The system is broken. The opportunities are few. No person or group can engineer a solution alone. We need God to intervene.
- Give. Support the mission there by donating baby supplies (diapers and powdered formula) to Real Life. This will make a big difference in the lives of families who cannot access what they need. In addition, these supplies will be given out along with the Gospel.
- Contact, pray for and give to the McIntosh family as they serve there. They left Real Life to give their lives away to this needy group for the sake of the Gospel. Empower them and encourage them. All the info you need is here: http://mcintoshatpineridge.com/?page_id=39
3) Your neighborhood/workplace/school
This last section will be short, but it is important. Please remember that you do not need to cross cultures or stand in a protest-crowd to be amongst the needy. People are needy everywhere. Your family has real needs. Your neighbors are struggling. Your friends are broken. There are issues all around us. Just to illustrate, almost one in every ten people in the US struggles with depression. (http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/major-depression/depression-statistics.aspx) That is just one issue among many. It is real and it is hard. But there is good news! The answer to all of our issues is Christ. In this broken world, as we pray, give, love and serve I want to encourage you to do one more necessary thing:
- Model your faith. Show what you believe by how you live. Don’t you think it will make a difference to those who are depressed if you show joy in trial because of Jesus? Don’t you think it will make an impact on parents considering a split if they see you committed to your marriage even when things are hard? Don’t you think that people will find hope when they see you giving to those in need? Live out what you believe.
Living what we believe will bring hope to many. The single greatest factor in living outside of poverty is an intact family. If we model that family and support those who are struggling, it will help the poor. One of the biggest reasons for abortion is that moms feel like they have to handle it alone. They are afraid. We can be the support needed to save a life. One of the most inspiring factors in racial reconciliation is acceptance and friendship. As you love, include and value those from different backgrounds and communities, you are breaking down racism.
We must pray. We must give. We be humble. And we must model our faith. People need to see and meet Jesus – the hope for all the world.