So many beautiful reflections of how we can manifest the heart of God for others. How we can infuse meaning from the vast array of scripture and commentary that informs how then we should live? Ones that reside in the forefront of my mind are Micah 6:8, …to act justly, to love mercy…; and the Shema, the Jewish creed for spiritual formation, which includes the edict to love God and to love others. (An excellent read on this topic is Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed.)
Acceptance, and holding a posture of relational openness is yet another avenue of hope moving mountains. Having a model of belonging before believing, (as opposed to an inbuilt requirement of believing before belonging), invites people into a safe space to ponder and explore our faith. In other words, demonstrating not telling.
Community, embraces a sense of belonging akin to a family. There is shared emotional connection, belonging, fulfillment of needs, and opportunity to influence. Aha! Definite aha moment.
Opportunity to Influence – could we look at that as a ‘pay it forward’, removing the us vs. them model, where some of us are more qualified to love, and provide care and compassion? And that’s where it gets messy – for some. Let’s start with some humor.
Here’s a version of an old joke that most of you will recall: A man is sitting on his porch as flood waters rise. A woman floats by in a boat, asking if the man needs help. “No, thank you,” says the man, “I’m trusting in the Lord.” The waters rise higher, sending the man upstairs. A raft full of people floats by his second story window. “Get in,” they say, “there’s plenty of room.” “No thanks,” says the man, “I’m trusting in the Lord.” The flood waters keep rising, pushing the man up to the roof. A helicopter swoops in, lowering its ladder for the man. “Thanks anyway,” shouts the man, “I’m trusting in the Lord.” Finally, the man is swept away in the torrent and drowns. At the gates of Heaven, the man asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” “What do you mean?” replies God, “I sent two boats and a helicopter.”
Here’s where I need you to consider, contemplate, and perhaps even trepidatiously walk through some new ways of thinking. I include this bit of humor as a against a backdrop of ongoing need of volunteers to meet with people in need of care. And, I’ve wondered how hypocritical we’ve been in seeking to accept those who can jump through those hoops well. What do we seek in those who desire to be a part of our compassionate community?
- Authentic care and compassion
- Emotionally safe
- self-identify as Christian
Who did Jesus allow in? This is a question we wrestle with as we are confronted with questions such as, “You have been helping me through such a hard time – I want to help others. Can I volunteer like you?” Gulp. This challenges our former models of hoops-one-must-jump-through to volunteer with us – and likely brings up questions in your mind, which we are happy to engage.
Who did Jesus pick as disciples? Upstanding, have-it-all-together guys? Enough said.
Enough faith? How do we decide who has enough faith to love another human being? Really dicey now. The former models of accepting volunteers had us checking references with ‘approved churches and pastors’, thus implying that if someone attends an approved church they are likely a great candidate – which has not been the case in some instances. And yet, we have those who identify with, and give assent to our Statement of Faith (Nicene Creed), but their only connection to a faith community is Choices. Since we hold that people are generally loved into God’s story as opposed to being controlled into God’s story, we recognize the (spiritual) significance and immense value of people ‘simply’ hanging out with us.
As we hold a faith that is organized around a lifetime journey toward Jesus – rather than (only) a one-time event – we find ourselves in a position of acknowledging a presence of faith that is sufficient for caring for another, being a reflection of the merciful heart of God.
And this is where we find ourselves. Desiring to be sure there is no one left alone who needs the care of another human being, and using the human resources that God has given us to do so.
“And how amazing is his love so unfailing…” are lyrics of a song we sing in church. This love is made real – felt – when we are Christ to others in need of hope beyond their circumstances. May those we encounter know and experience the care and compassion of Jesus by our reflecting such community – and may we be welcoming to all, respectful of the diversity of tapestry that represents our faith.