Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pretending not to see

She just blended into the crowd so easily. I'm sure that's why I didn't really "see" her.

Her torn and tattered shoes, taped together. Her raggedy clothes. Everything about Elizabeth screamed "homeless". But it was so easy to look at the car in front of me, at the marquee on the theater.

It was easy to pretend not to see her.

Perhaps that's why I understand the words to the song I heard on the radio today. In part they were:

she’s twenty-nine but she feels forty-eight
she can’t raise three kids on minimum wage
she’s cryin’ in back of the welfare line
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

she may be a stranger tryin’ to get through the day
but what if it’s Jesus and I walk away?
I say I’m the body and drink of the wine
but I pretend not to see her for the twenty-first time

this is a call for a change in my heart
I realize that I’ve not been doin’ my part
when i needed a Savior, i found it in Him
He gave to me, now I’ll give back to them


Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we should indiscriminately give a handout to every beggar. That's not good stewardship, nor good for them.

What I am saying is that we have to quit acting like we don't see them. After Elizabeth left our town, I determined that I would look reality in the face, however uncomfortable it made me.

I related doing so to my father's disability. He is used to people ignoring him, thinking he is retarded, or drunk. He has cerebral palsy, and it makes people uncomfortable. But to me he's just Daddy, the man who taught me to discuss politics and religion, who I share the same head-tossing laugh and the same inability to tell a joke without laughing. He's a person, not a disability.

And they are people, not "the homeless" or "the illegals" or "the ________". In many countries "they" are "us" - the church. The outcasts.

I've been studying James the last few months, and it really has convicted me to focus on practical acts of servant love. Sound doctrine is important; political engagement in a democratic society is a responsibility; but Jesus emphasized practical acts of servant love at every turn, and the theme is reiterated throughout the epistles and expounded upon in the book of James.

Interestingly the theme also appears in the context of sowing to the Spirit. In Galatian 6, Paul exhorts the Galatians to sow to the Spirit and reap the things of the Spirit. Now, in my over-spiritualized mindset, I always thought that meant read your Bible and pray. And of course, that establishes the foundation for the good soil of the Spirit. But Paul seems to have something else in mind, because that admonition is in the context of the following two verses. See for yourself:
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:8-10)

"So then" connects the thoughts. Paul is telling us that doing good is one way we sow to the Spirit - and we shouldn't grow weary of doing so, because a harvest will come.

Jesus told us Himself that we are to be salt and light in the world, and that our good works would glorify God (Matt. 5:14-16). The more I study the Word, the more convinced I become that practical acts of servant love should become part of our DNA from the day of salvation. New Christians should be taught to practice servant love as a spiritual exercise. Seasoned believers should step out and lead the way for radical acts of servant love to the body of Christ, people in their sphere of influence, and the world at large. We should join the cries for awareness about Darfur rather than worry about the politics of those raising such concerns. We should lead the way in asking how our countries economic policies impact poor people and poor countries. And we should get our hands dirty in doing something - not for political action, or to "give back" ... but to glorify God.

Those of you serving abroad have learned this. You regularly focus on practical needs - and we need you to remind us that this is as much a part of missions as sharing the Gospel. People need to see our faith demonstrated in authentic ways for the message to resonate with them. They need to know we care about them as more than a number. They need to know we are for love, not just against behaviors. And we need you to live that out for us and tell us about it when you are standing before our churches.

I'm not there yet. I'm still figuring this out. But at least I've quit pretending not to see.

Let's all work together to see this world with His eyes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully what you are trying to do
is contagious because a lot of us
would do well to 'get afflicted.'