As we start to wrap up life here, it has obviously led to a lot of thought and reflection about our time here and our usefulness. It was another hard season, to be sure. We are still in the thick of it, and I think it will take a fair amount of time out to be able to actually gain perspective on this season. What we learned, how we grew. It would be nice if we knew in some ways how we were used. A friend in my old desert home once said, “I think when we get to heaven we will see that our lives were both more and less significant than we thought.” I love that, and I think it’s true.
My first few years overseas I was desperate to pinpoint a few ways that I was used. I was dying to be useful. Now, more and more, I just hope to be faithful. I think there is an element of usefulness in that. Or there can be. But I think if our eyes start getting fixed on usefulness as opposed to faithfulness we’re missing the mark. We are called to be good and faithful.
It can be a very nebulous thing, to be ‘faithful.’ Hard to define. A good way for me to look at it is to make my life all about what God is all about. And, from what I can tell, the God of the Bible in the Old Testament and the New Testament seems to be all about love and justice. What I can’t seem to get around at any point in the scriptures, is the importance of aligning ourselves with the poor.
In Matthew 25 Jesus identifies himself with the poor. He is to be found among those who are hungry, sick, in prison, naked, and are strangers. If that is where Jesus is, that is where we should want to be. It is a big part of why we both moved overseas.
God used Hagar, a lowly servant, to be in the lineage of Jesus. One among many of surprising people to be in the lineage of a savior. This is huge and important. The birth of Jesus was proclaimed by angels to the shepherds. Jesus ate with tax collectors, who were hated, and among sinners. Jesus always went to the where the poor were. Throughout the Bible you have God choosing to use the poor and oppressed, and Jesus choosing to associate with those on the out. He went to where the poor were. And he not only takes their side, he puts himself in their place. (2 Cor. 8:9)
Jeremiah 5:28 talks about the wicked who do not plead the cause of the orphan and do not defend the rights of the poor. The opposite of this is being an advocate and defender for the poor.
If we are safe and stable it is not a sin. God wants to meet our needs, and when our needs are met we should feel thankful and not guilty. But. It does mean we need to figure out how to use our material, power, and privilege to align with those whom God instructs us to align with.
During our time here, we tried to align with our refugee co-workers and friends. We were very intentional to try and plead their cause and stand up for them. With varied success, we advocated for them, and the refugees receiving our services, in situations where they were being ignored or treated as second class. We befriended them. Listened and tried to understand. We ate together. Helped make their lives easier if we could. We tried to help meet needs. Needs that many couldn’t meet by no fault of their own because of war, displacement, and systematic issues that keep them stuck.
As we go back, we are trying to find ways to keep supporting our friends here. And, we are asking ourselves, where is Jesus where we are going? Where are the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the oppressed? Where and how can we give? How can we be advocates and defenders for the rights of the poor there? In our vocation, our spending, our church, our politics, our nation. In each aspect of our life, how can we choose justice for the oppressed?
This is not an add-on to our faith. According to the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), how we treat the poorest and most suffering seems rather crucial to our salvation.
We have lots of ideas. Too many, maybe. But we’re always looking for more. What are you doing in your life to align with those on the out? How are you advocating and caring for the poor? What does seeking justice look like to you? In your life? Help us! We all have blinders on to a certain extent based on various aspects of our lives. Help us find our blinders. We want to keep getting better at making our live all about what God was all about.