They need more than hugs.
When we see children in trouble, orphans, a trafficked girl, a little boy who has walked hundreds of miles in search of safe haven, we act. We have to, because that’s what followers of Christ do. We are compassionate, because our Lord was compassionate. We see these children as our own, because we ourselves have been adopted by the Father of Love. But we are also called to be wise, to show that compassion in a way that is more than just a fleeting hug – a way that transforms for a lifetime, an eternity. As you have heard me say before, “cures, not Band-aids”. I will get to the specifics of the border crisis in a subsequent post, but first some theological digression, context if you will . . . Here’s a question for you, general in scope:
When is doing good—acting in compassion—actually harmful, and how do we as followers of Christ act in a manner that truly improves the lot of cast-aside people?
The answers are not immediately easy. They demand thoughtful, meaningful activity that sometimes leads us away from our best instincts and requires that our heads temper our hearts. But, please hear this and hear this well:
Concern for outcomes is never an excuse for inactivity.
In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a call to action, an action driven not only by a caring heart, but also an action that is directed by godly wisdom. When you look at the stories of the gospels, the ministry of Jesus was consciously and very intentionally focused on transformation. Did he “fix” the physical, the material? Absolutely, but he did so consistently within the context of changing a life. We can find the occasional occurrence where Jesus met a short-term need—feeding the five thousand comes to mind—but in the large majority of cases, he was altering the context of a person’s existence; the blind saw, the paralytic walked, and–most important–those with soul sickness encountered the transforming love of the Savior. Here is an extended project for you. Read through one of the gospels, looking in particular at Jesus’ interaction with people in need. See if you can find a case where he heals or forgives, but you worry that he might really just be perpetuating the problem. I can’t find one. His interaction was always focused beyond the moment of encounter, always seeking to transform a life. In the same way, we absolutely must engage in caring for the hurting of the world, even kids the world dumps on our doorstep. The need for social justice is unimaginably huge. We have run through the numbers already; our world is full of hungry, exploited, abused, and abandoned children. In response, our encounter with the living Savior and his grace compels us to be engaged in their lives.
But we have to do it the right way.
We must make the choices that make a difference. We cannot throw money at a problem, feel good about it, and then walk away, responsibility resolved, guilt absolved.
That is not Christian charity.
Our love and activity for those in need must always take place within the context of our relationship with Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 13, “now abide faith, hope, and charity.” The three are not unrelated, but are the composite of who he is, and who we are to be. Faith is the conviction, not of God’s existence, but of His benevolent activity in our lives. Hope is the belief, based on the evidence of that faith, that He will continue to act for us. Charity—love—is our activity based on faith and hope; it is the echo of God’s love in our own lives. The subsequent always flows out of its antecedent. So, when we get busy with the activity of grace in the world, the focus is always beyond us, always on bringing others to the point of experiencing God in the same way we do. Because, you see, biblical faith – dirty faith –always echoes God’s love.