Many of us unconsciously build our lives on a foundation of religious behaviors and even sound doctrine, yet our lives lack an essential sign of love for God—which is to love our neighbors who are made in his image, and most especially those Jesus called “the least of these.”
Where we do indeed fail, there is still indeed hope for us.
Even if we’ve been stuck in a doctrinally accurate yet relationally dead or comatose faith, today can mark a new beginning for us. Why? Because God loves bringing dead bones to life with living flesh, and because his mercies are new every morning (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Lamentations 3:22-23). If salvation can come to the house of a formerly self-serving, greed-driven, poor-exploiting Zacchaeus, then salvation can come to our houses as well (Luke 19:1-10).
With Jesus, as long as we are breathing there is opportunity for the Holy Spirit of God to breathe his mercy-loving, justice-seeking, salvation life into us. And when he does, neighbor love and concern for the poor will begin flowing out from us.
Like a doctor catching cancer early and calling for surgery, or a father who loudly warns his toddler to stop running in the direction of a busy street, warnings about our neglect of the poor are a kindness from God. His warnings provide us with fresh opportunities to consider how “Christ has regarded [our] helpless estate, and has shed his own blood for [our] soul,” and how receiving mercy from Christ can transform us into participants in his mission of mercy to the hurting.
As Martin Luther said, “We are all mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.”
Living in the Spirit-filled awareness of Christ’s love toward us will cause love to flow out from us toward others. “Majoring” in the things of Jesus will, over time, become more natural to us as the Spirit transforms us into his likeness. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) becomes more than a pithy saying and vague aspiration. Instead, it becomes a very real description of our lives as we begin living out what it means to be redeemed, restored, forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and welcomed to God’s banquet table by grace.
In our own community at Christ Presbyterian in Nashville, this energy poured into the poor or “the least of these” shows up in many ways. Some of our people invest their money, time, and skills to help those who’ve been released from prison find meaningful work and become life-giving contributors to society.
Others live and serve among people with disabilities and special needs.
Some welcome orphans and foster kids into their homes, while others form support communities to wrap around them.
Others partner and serve with local nonprofits that provide healthcare for refugees, post-trauma resources for women coming out of prostitution and poverty, healing community for those caught in addiction, care and support for those facing a crisis pregnancy, counseling, resourcing, and friendship for those suffering divorce or bereavement or unemployment or loneliness or anxiety or depression.
And there is so much more!