The following blog post is a part of our ongoing Global Awareness series. A group of people in our church family started talking about the world and all the suffering. Throughout the year, this group has committed to bringing attention and information about the world and its suffering to our church family. We will pray as a church family and, hopefully, as individuals. Through this process, our desire is that God will shape our church and our hearts to become more like him, that our concerns and dreams will be become more like his!
PURPOSE: To create awareness. To help us genuinely care. To learn to see as God sees, to think as God thinks, to do as God does.
NOT THE PURPOSE: To alleviate all suffering. To right all wrongs. To take political stands or statements on issues. To start a non-profit or website. To shock, scare, or guilt.
One member of this previously mentioned house church has written the following post in light of the recent tragedies in our country.
GLOBAL AWARENESS: NEIGHBORS & NATIONS
Part of our introduction to a foreign culture was an account of church leaders and a missionary discussing a situation where a local Christian had committed adultery. The man was a church leader; what were they do?
The missionary became upset that the nationals were not going to impose a ‘penalty’ that matched the seriousness of the sin. He perceived their rebuke of the man as a mere slap on the wrist. And he said so.
After all was said and done, the locals gave a more severe rebuke to the missionary for his display of anger in the meeting than to the church leader for his infidelity to his wife.
What one group understands is not what the other group understands, and both wonder why the other doesn’t get it.
To live on mission calls for rigorous preparation to understand and respect what is important and serious to our neighbors.
Ron has lived on the corner twenty years. Crystal’s been in her house thirty plus years. Carlos has been there his whole life. Ms. Nita forty-two years in one house. Me - almost two years. From my house, I can see seven, brand-new houses, all inhabited by white people. Those neighbors named above: black people. Will we be neighbors or just people on the same street?
I’ve wondered why thieves/bandits were crucified with Jesus (Matthew 27). Stealing did not warrant the death penalty (in my mind). That is largely because a white, middle-class, Western worldview says, “It can all be replaced. I’ll not starve or lose status due to this temporary loss of possessions. My insurance agent is a phone call away; I’m in good hands.” We who have an “unlimited supply” mentality are irritated and feel violated if we are the victims of robbers, but we don’t kill them. Most of the world, though, would (and does).
What offends my neighbors? What gives them comfort?
These views of sins and offenses are more complex than presented here. And the complexity of a worldview goes well beyond just what people think of as right or wrong.
What is life like if the local and national politicians are crooked and the elections are controlled by the crooked politicians? Societal systems impose impossible regulations and demand crippling bribes. You cannot put your children in high school without paying a (substantial) bribe. You cannot start a business, get a driver’s license, travel abroad, get a permit, buy land and plant seed, see a doctor, buy medicine, bury a loved one, get married or vote without participating in illegal activities. Purchasing anything more than basic necessities costs twice the real price due to “import taxes” and every manner of kickback imaginable. A loan starts at twenty-five percent interest (25%).
Those foreign-language classes in high school and college — we didn’t take them seriously, did we? Those Hispanic children who moved into our schools — we didn’t ask them to teach us their language or culture, did we? The refugees living and moving into Nashville — we aren't all that interested, are we? Was it the fatigue of Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando that made us not care as much about the suicide bombings in Istanbul, Kabul and Indonesia?
It’s hard to care about everybody everywhere. It’s hard to get to know my neighbors. It’s hard to learn Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Mandarin, Farsi, KiSwahili and/or Kurdish. None of us can be interested in and keep up with and give emotional energy to every tribe, tongue and nation. But we can all choose one. We can meet our neighbors - red or yellow or brown or black or white. We can choose one nation to study, pray for, visit, find her nationals in Nashville, learn (some of?) its language. We can eat lunch with someone other than the normal crowd. We can walk into any housing project and find someone with needs. We can find our way to McMurray or Tusculum or Glencliff (or most any other) school and volunteer.
We can pray. Some will know John Piper’s quote: “Prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie for spiritual warfare; not a domestic intercom to increase the comfort of the saints.” Samuel’s line from his speech to the Israelites when they realized they had sinned greatly: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23) And Paul’s instructions about prayer in Ephesians 6:10–20.
Being salt and light (Matthew 5) is a matter of following Jesus. It’s a matter of humility. We prepare and we (continue to) learn. We take the long-term view: this will take years. This will take faith. This will require the presence and work of God Almighty. The Spirit of Holiness will have much to do within us.
Our Father above and below, around and within, past, present and future; you are holy. You are different yet you made us to be like you. You do not sin but you welcome us sinners. You are wise and you love us who are not wise. You know what to do and when to do it, yet you wait for us. You are holy.
Please show yourself as the true comforter and friend to those who are mourning and weeping in these days of loss. Guide their steps in the coming days.
May your welcoming ways become our ways. May your patience become our patience. May your wisdom be formed in us. May your relentless love get a hold of and change us. May what we want and do become more like what you want and do.
Give us enough motivation, enough trust, enough love for our neighbors, each and every day. Give us, please, what we need for the first steps. And then for the next one.
Forgive us for avoiding those who are different or difficult. Forgive us for being apathetic with learning about other languages and cultures. Forgive us being indifferent to what you are doing. And we will forgive also, for such is the kingdom of heaven.
Comfort and convenience and entertainment tempt us in overt and subtle ways; please deliver us. The use of money tempts us; please deliver us. Our appetite for pleasure tempts us; please deliver us.
As we feel convicted, may we not feel condemned. May we instead feel compelled into actions of love.
May your love be our motivation, may your love be our guide. May we be known by out love for others — others who are like us, and others who are different than us. And may this love point only to you, our good, kind, active, and present Father.
Could we ever pray, “Holy Father, we want what you want.” It’s more like, “We want to want what you want.” One thing that God wants, as seen throughout the Bible, is for the nations to know his goodness and greatness. He cares about all people. Jesus gave some of his highest praise to foreigners who demonstrated faith and humility.
The people of God are to be known for their love for others. We want what our Father wants: reconciliation and repentance for all people. He wanted it with us and he wants it with our neighbors and the nations.
To read more about our Global Awareness series, go here.
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In the Neighborhood
A Journalist’s Effort To Know His Neighbors
From Fallujah After Iraqi Forces Rout ISIS