So a few months back, I wrote about a thoughtful article that focused on the missional component of the current Syrian situation. Thanks to a Facebook friend who shared this article, I definitely received good food for thought and action. The fact is that the events unfolding before us are a gateway to several opportunities to serve a large population who may not know Jesus.
AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
“…’Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.'” –Luke 10:36-37
In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we see a man who demonstrated compassion by being the lone one of three who stopped to notice another in need and provide a means of care. But, really, the Samaritan did even more than this.
The Samaritan went out of his way, putting his comfort aside, giving of his time, resources, and attention to meet the unknown battered and bruised man where he was and providing the care tailored to his need.
It’s one thing to admire the Good Samaritan, but another to do the same. Are WE willing to engage our neighbor’s sufferings like this?
Will we open ourselves up to see the Syrians’ situation? To advance and protect the well-being and welfare of the most vulnerable?
To help raise up leaders in and outside of the Syrian church who will do the same?
To restore their ability to pursue the beauty of their unique culture and livelihoods in their homelands? In a way that truly embraces the God-given freedoms, desires, and creativity granted to us all as His creation?
To leave our comfort at the Savior’s call for the sake of the displaced, the broken, the hurting, and those in desperate need of Him?
And with hearts united and rooted in our Heavenly citizenship, are we willing to be displaced ourselves and surrender our homeland, our culture, our neighborhoods, our proximity to loved ones and our way of life to go, live among, and endure with those who are in need? And readily support those whose hearts have been tugged by such a call?
PRAYERFUL, SPIRIT-LED ACTION
“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for his own inheritance.” –Psalm 33:8-12
“‘Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”‘” –Jesus, Matthew 6:9-10
Just as the above author wrote, I agree that now is the critical moment to ask:
“God, what are You doing? And in light of that, how should I respond?”
Because responding is definitely necessary. We cannot turn our face away from the real crises represented in countries like Syria, Yemen, Uganda, Venezuela, Myanmar, and so many other places in our own backyard. But, if I may add, we must guard against assuming what that good is. Let’s not simply launch forward with what seems right in our own eyes. Let’s seek the Lord in prayer and His Word, consulting Him as beloved children of the King and asking what He would have us to do, and then do it.
From the Scriptures, it’s clear that the God’s heart is for those burdened and oppressed, and He wants us as His people to have the same heart. As the Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah:
“…’Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?
“‘Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“‘Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“‘Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, “Here I am.” If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, AND if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.
“‘And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“‘Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell…'” –The Lord, Isaiah 58:6-12 (emphasis mine)
The Lord has a role for each of us to play that is according to His will as the Lord of the Harvest. Will we be bold enough to approach His throne?
To put down our busyness and plans, humble ourselves before Him, and wait long enough to listen for His voice?
And to surrender to His way and step out in obedience empowered by the grace and Spirit of God?
AND IN ALL THINGS CHARITY…
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh… If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” –Paul, Galatians 5:16, 25-26
In closing, may I note that while it’s admirable for us to be passionate about defending the orphan, widow, refugee, and those otherwise oppressed, when our passion causes us to sin with our words and actions against others, no matter how desperate the situation at hand, we must check ourselves. As the apostle Paul says to the young church leader Timothy:
“But the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” –Paul, 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Yes, the Lord God wants us to obey Him in speaking up and acting on behalf of the hurting, the broken, the oppressed. There’s no doubt about it. However, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Father God also wants us to walk this out in love, in a way where we’re not hurling insults at one another or sowing seeds of discord as we react against those who don’t see things our way.
Now, I admit, this can be very difficult. We now live in a social media/online discourse culture where it’s very tempting to… uh, well… give full vent to our frustrations without filtering… Where it’s scary to even voice an opinion for fear of receiving the full blast of someone’s anger or irritation with our statements… Where it feels like you have to think ten times as long and hard about what you say for outright fear of what you say being misinterpreted and slightly offensive at best or wholly misunderstood and leading to outright bashing, labeling, and shunning at worst…
You know what I’m saying.
We all hate it and yet somehow this culture continues on unchecked.
But by the grace of God and His Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible to avoid these pitfalls. So as we cry out on behalf of those facing injustice, please, let’s not, as some of the Pharisees did, find ourselves carrying out one aspect of our Lord’s commands while neglecting the others.
Instead, let’s keep praying, friends, for we need our Almighty God to move on our behalf and through us, doing what only HE can do. Let’s not be foolish to think we can figure this out without Him and determine what’s best to do on our own. We desperately need His wisdom and empowering by the Holy Spirit to know how to respond to the opportunity that is now nearer our doorsteps.
And then, as the Father God speaks to our hearts, let us act humbly, boldly in response, led by the Spirit in His gracious wisdom, life-transforming truth, and holy love.