As followers of Jesus we are called to be a light in the community that we live in, to love those that live around us. I often get so caught up in my own interests, hobbies etc. that I often neglect to see the needs of the people that I come in contact with in our community. The question that has been on my mind a lot lately is this: what does it really mean to be a true disciple of Jesus, and to become more like him?
Does a true disciple of Jesus just go to church on Sunday, or any time there is church, prayer nights, bible study and life groups? Or is there something more? Now please don’t take this as me saying these things are not important, as Paul tells us do not neglect meeting together, we are to meet together to encourage one another in the faith, we are to be in the word to pray individually and together.
Yet when I see and study the life of Jesus and how he interacted with his community I see something vastly different, than what I often see in my own life. I see compassion for those that are lost, hurting, marginalized, weak, betrayed and looked down upon their entire life. Jesus cared for these people, ministered to them, loved them and had compassion for them. Not only did he treat his fellow Jews this way but he also spent time with the Gentiles. In the mind of the Jews, Gentiles were not even in God's plan. Yet Jesus loved, cared and healed them.
Being on the board of Love Our Community I am more aware than ever of those that are homeless and abandoned. Those that are rejected by society and often the church too. Currently, Love Our Community is working with approximately 20-25 individuals, families and children who either are homeless or in a domestic violence situations abandoned by families with no place to go. There is need and many ways that you can help. Being in prayer or giving money, but honestly the most important thing our community needs is you. Your time volunteering at our warehouse or volunteering at the Christmas event. More than anything these people need relationships with someone that cares for them. It is how they see Jesus. Yes it is hard and messy, and sometimes we do not see any fruit. But what if Jesus told the Father the same thing we often do? “I know that these people on Earth need me, they need healing both physically and spiritually, but it will be hard and messy and some of these people will never show any fruit. They will reject me, betray me, they don't appreciate me and what I have done for them. I would rather just stay here Father.” Where would you and I be?
There are other places in our community that you can serve as well. Foster Our Community is an organization that supports families who foster and adopt. Rahab Ministries who works with women who are sex trafficked. You can get involved with them by becoming a mentor, or by helping our church make meals for the women who have gotten trapped in this industry. I know many of you serve at the Gentlebrook Thrift store. There are many, many ways to be involved in our community. The question is are you involved in our community in some way or another? Are you building relationships with people in our community? Are you caring and loving people with the love of Jesus. That love he has shown you. Those relationships show who Jesus is and make his name great among our community!
More than just getting involved in one of the local missions, it is really about a mindset change. It is changing our mindset about our daily life. It is not saying, “Well I’m at work today and then later tonight I’m going to do ministry.” It is beginning to think, my life is a mission. It is saying, “I’m heading to a God given place of ministry wherever I go. I have the opportunity to live out the grace of the gospel both in the way that I respond to people and the grace that I give them. I get to live that out a thousand ways today!”
I often think how could it be that I would be so privileged as to be a part of the most important work in the universe—it’s called redemption and I get to do that all the time. What do I want for my children? Redemption. What do I want for my neighbors? Redemption. What do I want for my wife? Redemption. What do I want for my coworkers? Redemption. What do I want for the shop keeper that I meet three or four times a week? Redemption. I want to be a part of that. By the touch of my hand, the tone of my voice, the look on my face and the compassion I have for those that I notice are hurting, I want to represent the One who has sent me.
Paul David Tripp says that “our mission as a believer is to make the grace of an invisible Christ visible.” I believe one of the ways that we are able to do that is by being involved in a local mission, not just giving money, or praying but actually spending time with the people that the local mission is trying to help, building relationships through local missions.
In Jeremiah, we see what God asked of the Israelites that were in exile and although this was written directly to those exiles I think that there are principles that we can learn from and see what the heart of God is for us a believers living in exile so to speak as we are not of this world!
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Build a house. Connect with your neighbors. The Jews were in Babylon as a judgement for their own sin, but in Babylon, they were to be witnesses of Gods grace to the unbelievers of Babylon. They were to see themselves as ambassadors sent there from God. Verse 7 tells them to be good neighbors, seeking the welfare of the city where God had sent them. The word for welfare is the Hebrew word “shalom” which means prosperity, wholeness, peace, blessing and favor. In other words, God is saying become a servant seek your neighbors well being by build relationships. We should invest in our communities because in it’s shalom you and I will find. Shalom, I’d like to think that many of the Jews in Babylon had ministered to their pagan neighbors much like the ministries we mentioned above. Selflessly meeting the needs of others, loving people without holding their sin against them and yet showing them a better way. Selflessly meeting the needs of our neighbors has always been the most important doorway to share our faith. We need to give hope to our communities, because of the hope that we have that comes from our faith in Jesus.
George Macleod says, “I simply argue that the Cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew, Greek, and in Latin, at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and the soldiers gamble. Because that is where churchmen should be and what churchmanship should be about.”
We will not impact our community for the Gospel unless we live and build relationships with the people in them, and in that we can show the beauty of Jesus to a world that needs and longs for Hope.