Friends and family- brothers and sisters,
It’s often been said that the pastor’s job is “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” Today, as I sat in my pew at church, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of the latter. We’ve been talking about biblical justice lately. We’ve been talking about what it means to care about the things our Father cares about.
If you know me fairly well (or if you’re one of those kind few who happens to check in on my blog), you know that God has – probably with great intention – brought some individuals into my life who are in painful places right now. With so much joy, I can report that though it hasn’t been a level trajectory upward for them, some are indeed in a better position than they once were. Sometimes we haven’t had much to offer our new friends. But by God’s grace, they have been touched in much more meaningful ways by our little acts of kindness than by any amount of money we could have given them.
One of these friends is Leo who, as you may/may not remember, is an immigrant living in this country without home, family, and in all honesty, citizenship. He’s here because he had little other option. He’s here because he would have never been given a way out of his circumstances had he remained in his home country of Mozambique. Despite having no consistent job to support himself and a terminal illness that limits many would-be jobs here, Leo is full of life. He loves Jesus with a passion that brightens the day of anyone who has the pleasure to be around him. He has a way of becoming one of those instant friends.
So when Leo reached out, first to my friend Lisa, and then to me, to tell us his car had broken down once again and he was scared he might not be able to make it this time, something happened to us. Leo’s car is, quite literally, his lifeline. It’s his bed, his means of getting medication, and his only possibility of maintaining any sort of work. Imagine what it might be like to have all of those things taken from you at once. That was a thought that went through my head today.
You can also imagine, then, the clarity of answer that came to mind when the pastor challenged us to think about what it might look like for us to play a part in enacting this justice – that comforts the orphan and the widow; that welcomes the stranger and gives bread to the hungry. You can imagine that I didn’t have to think very hard.
And this was kind of refreshing for me because I think we often times do think pretty hard about this stuff. We think about how our money will be honored, if it will be a good investment or not. We think about what kind of behavior we might be condoning; if, instead, we should perhaps teach this person “how to fish.” These aren’t bad things to put good thought into, but I wonder sometimes if my critical thinking is in direct conflict with the simplicity of my love. That’s how my love for Leo felt this morning – simple. He’s had his fair share of mess-ups and mysteries, but does that warrant me keeping that money for myself? Did God ever withhold his grace from me because he was waiting for a more worthy cause? I know Leo, and I see what he’s going through, and I think that’s enough. I hope this comes across more as an expression of my heart than a condemnation of the way we sometimes choose to give.
People of faith, particularly in America, are often criticized for the distance of their charity. Both generosity and convenience are part of our national DNA and this usually manifests itself in neat, automatic, tax-deductible donations. My hope is that this isn’t that. My hope is that this is simply me, and maybe you, seeing a real need that’s within a degree or two of us and responding to it however we see fit. I’m going to give Leo money because I think that is the most practical way I can love him right now. I’d love for you to do the same. Maybe you want to pray for Leo. That’s just as important. Maybe you know someone with an extra car he or she might be willing to sell to meet an urgent need. I believe there is one out there for him.
I guess all I’m asking of you – because you are the people I know who care about this stuff – is for you to respond in some way. I’m also reaching out to this group in particular because you’re well-connected. You know other people (friends, colleagues, parents, etc.) who care about these kinds of things. My vision and my prayer is that this little effort doesn’t stop with the group represented in my “Recipients” list. My hope is that you might be willing to spread the news a bit. There’s a God who sought and saved those who were in desperate need of him. Now we get to do the same with someone standing at our doorstep. Here’s how you can give:
- Go to this webpage (I’ve created a “youcaring” account because it facilitates ongoing giving campaigns while taking little-to-no percentage of the funds raised.)
- Click the “Donate Now” button and follow the instructions to give however much you can
- Share it with friends who want to get involved in what God is doing!
- Say a prayer that this would be a means to empower Leo towards a healthier living situation and a greater trust in God’s perfect love.
As always, thanks for caring about what I have to say (especially when what I have to say is a lot.) My prayer for myself in all this is that my giving away would increasingly become a direct extension of the eternal treasure that’s been given to me.
Daniel (DJ) Johnsen