Sometimes I like to walk around a particular town, or suburb, and pray as I go. Usually I would do this if that particular region was a region Jesus was asking me to pray for, and the people in it he had started to break my heart for.
I've walked in places in the western Suburbs of Sydney – where you find some of the worst socio-economic disadvantage, and where the crime rates are through the roof – and then I've walked places like Prahran, and South Yarra – the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne, my home- city.
Places where there is a lot more comfort, a lot more wealth, a lot more stability and opportunity. It's in these places of greater opportunity, that I've seen something that angers me deeply. There I am, walking along the footpath and I see 'white picket fence' houses, beautiful lawns, or in the city I'll see business owners and business people bustling around going about their daily business, and there in the midst of them, I see it.
People without a home, without a job, without a family, without opportunity; lying on the street in the places of apparently high opportunity, ignored by 95% of people who walk bye. It's funny, because the thing that often angers me most is where I see the Church in the middle of this chaos. Their church building's walls built strong, their roofs built high, their gardens kept and their windows cleaned, and their doors locked after 5pm.
Some things to consider:
The Rich and the Suffering
Luke 16 verses 19-20 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores."
I hear of and even see some ministries out there, ministries that burst forth from mega-churches with the financial resources to start working amongst the poor and marginalised in their metropolitan areas, and we say, "Yes, this is good. Praise God! Our Church is doing amazing things in the darkest parts of our town."
And there it is... We champion these ministries thinking our prayers and our encouragements are enough, and in doing so we fudge our own responsibility as lovers of Christ, to reach out, and cheerfully sacrifice our material comfort, and actually show love to the least of these.
Prayer is central, don't get me wrong, but Jesus' own brother, James, says it beautifully: "Suppose a brother is without cloths and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?...Faith itself, if it is not accompanied by actions is dead." (James chapter 2:15-17)
Why Just Giving Them Money Won't Fix Anything
Articles like this can often result in you emptying your pockets for the homeless guy on the side of the road. As someone who was once considered an "at-risk youth" struggling with drug issues and "recurring homelessness", let me tell you why this is not a healthy method of help.
Money given to a homeless person will result in one of two outcomes. Best case scenario, they buy themselves some food, or a blanket – something practical. Usually the other outcome is they buy some booze, or drugs. Sounds cynical, but I've seen it, and I even did it at one stage too.
Give someone your spare clothes! Give them food. Take them in to your home. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, that love always trusts. If you can't trust our King, Jesus, to take care of you while you are putting up a struggling teenager or young single mum or whatever, then how are you living a life with love?
1 John 4 verse 8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." It also says in 1 john, chapter 3:17 "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and truth."
Stop For The One
We live in a pampered age. However, this goes beyond compassion for those who are less fortunate. This is actually something that would indicate how much of your life, and your heart, you have given to Jesus. It is He who is the righteous one, and we are made righteous by Him through faith.
But if we are made righteous, then surely this means we would be moved by His righteous compassion, and His righteous love, to stop for the one who is suffering? To stop for the one who is struggling, and rather than refer them to a service, surely the righteous love and compassion in us would move us to more action, would it not?
Matthew 25 verses 37-45 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
You can't save the world, and you can't help everybody. But I guarantee you, if you open your eyes and step outside, you'll see people in desperate need. Lay down your life – if you are in Christ, it is not your own anyway. Lay it down, reach out, and give of your wealth to those who have nothing. Give your time, give yourself, be a light in the darkness.
Love looks something like this!
Benjamin James is 24 years old and madly in love with Jesus! He is a Youth Worker and also currently studying a Bachelor of Christian Studies at Melbourne School of Theology. He is passionate and opinionated and will take every opportunity to see positive change in the world.
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