holy heartburn; an invitation

pre-script: I have been doing some writing for the Gathering blog and so posted this piece there in response to Jeff's Sunday sermon. Sorry for the duplicate!

As I listened to Jeff speak on Matthew 25:31-46 this past Sunday, I realized I drastically misunderstood God’s call for us to serve the ‘least of these.’ The severity of the passage is evident in the language, but the heat rising in my chest seemed like more than realization of the weight in such a responsibility.We heard about the overwhelming amount of ‘least of theses,’ awareness without action, and the passion of service.

overwhelmed

It just takes a brief look at some of the alarming statistics to feel the overwhelming wave.

  1. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.Source 1
  2. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.Source 2
  3. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.Source 3
  4. According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” Source 4

I’ve had the conversation so many times with myself, “Seriously, Caroline, what can you really do to fight AIDS?” “Yeah, but I should probably help somehow” “But even if you help a little, the problem is so huge, it’ll never get better.”

How depressing! That’s the trouble. Instead of looking at the problems of the world and saying, “How can I serve?” we look at the problems and say, “How can my service possibly make a difference?”

Our focus is all wrong. We are accustomed to getting a decent return on our investments. I don’t want to be a part of anything that isn’t successful, so every time I serve I should be able to see results. But, wait a minute, does God call us to serve for success or just to serve unto Him, for His glory?

awareness without action
Jeff called us out. We all know - we’ve all read the headlines and watched the nightly news. We can’t escape the knowledge that there are people in need around the world.

“It’s not an issue about awareness for most of us … people watch the news and then go on eating their dinner”

So, if I do decide to break my routine and serve as unto the Lord, what really is the right action? Instead of gravitating toward popular movements and giant foundations, what if the right thing to do is make it as personal as you possibly can.

“Many people know about poverty, but very few know the poor by name.” John B. Hayes

When Jesus says, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,’” he’s talking about getting real personal. And, here’s the thing, it will be much MUCH more rewarding (for the Kingdom and for yourself) if you break your routine for personal service.

passion; an invitation
This holy heartburn I feel rising in my chest is not condemnation for all the times I have “gone on eating my dinner.” No, this holy fire is in response to the greatest of invitations. Service has, quite unjustly, received a bum rap because it appears weak to the world. Yet, what Christ offers in salvation is a share in His suffering and a share in His future glory.

The way we describe and define passion today is very different from its original meaning, which is ’suffering’ and ‘agony’ and to have compassion is to ’suffer with.’

Even as I write now, I’m feeling again the heat rising in my chest. And, now I am sure that service is not penitence. It’s not our payment for all God’s mercy and grace. It’s not piety. Service is an invitation to know God; to share in the sufferings of the ‘least of these.’

The Kingdom is already and not yet. And in this tension, God has extended an invitation to us to take part in HIS ultimate redemption story.

as servants.

So... if you dig this serving thing, check out Compassion in previous post!