I’m really excited that my good friend Amy agreed to be my guest today on Church Letters!
Amy authors my favorite blog, The Monday Heretic. She models well how to honor God by the way she interacts with people and life. Without further adieu…
When I was in high school, a classmate told me about his mom’s doctoral thesis. “It’s on the history of genocide,” he explained. “She walks around the house crying most of the time these days.”
I stared at him, instantly deciding this was the worst in-depth topic ever. “Why on earth did she decide to study genocide?”
And my classmate looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Someone has to.”
I still think about that statement, especially these days, when it seems like all news is bad news and there is so much ugliness in the world, in my social media feed, even in my own heart.
I can’t help but ask myself: why should Christians speak out about difficult issues, give when they might never see the results, and stay engaged in relationships that are messy?
Because someone has to.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be the ones who don’t turn away from the hard stuff.
Now, right away, I want to say what I don’t mean. If you want to stay away from controversial subjects on Facebook, that’s totally fine. In fact, that takes wisdom and discretion that I wish more people had.
And I don’t think life should be a dungeon of doom. I remain convinced that Jesus and the disciples would be the best people to invite over for a game night (even if Peter would be way too competitive). Laughter and fun and happiness are all gifts from God to be enjoyed.
I’m not even talking about the need to rest. After all, even Jesus took time to withdraw from the chaos. (Although when he did, he spent time in prayer, engaging instead of retreating.)
What I’m talking about is isolating yourself from anything hard. Choosing the safe option. Saying “I’ll pray for you” to avoid acting (and sometimes forgetting even to do that). Turning away from something that’s uncomfortable to hear. Avoiding the most difficult people in your life. Assuming “that’s just not my gift.” Never asking God to challenge or change you.
The Giver by Lois Lowry has something to say about this. Even when I first read the book as a sixth grader, I was fascinated by the Giver. He had to take on the sorrow and suffering of the world and keep it locked inside him. It was his duty to pass on wisdom from what he knew—and what he knew was sometimes beautiful and sometimes horrible, but you couldn’t have one without the other.
Christians need to be the Givers for our society. We need to be the ones who bear the memories of evil in the world. We need to object when people say that humans are basically good because we know where that path leads. We need to be moved by the suffering of strangers enough to do something about it. We need to be the first ones in line for hard times and hard people.
This is a way of imitating Jesus—intentionally taking on suffering and sin that is not our own. Not by joining a rant on Facebook, not by writing an occasional check, not by crossing items off a checklist, but by learning, listening, caring.
Maybe for you it means getting involved in a cause—fighting racism or sex trafficking or poverty by giving of your time and money or just by learning as much as you can and educating others. It could be identifying a family member who needs encouragement, researching a tricky issue so you can have an informed opinion, or seeking out the person at church who others avoid.
I can’t tell you exactly what being a Giver looks like, because it’s going to be different for everyone. It’s my friend Adam who tweets out calls to pray for the persecuted church, my roommate Abbie who will put off studying for her nursing final to give words of wisdom and comfort to anyone who needs them, my sister Erika who prays relentlessly for her most troubled students and is determined to make them realize by the time they leave her classroom that someone cares about them.
That’s what real, brave love looks like.
We love because someone has to. We love because the Holy Spirit within us gives us the unique ability to bear others’ burdens without breaking, to empty ourselves and then be filled again, to give what we’ve been given. We love because he first loved us.
But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I don’t. And do you know why?
Because I’m worried I won’t have enough. Enough time, enough money, enough emotional energy. But God says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Because I’m selfish. When given the choice, I’d put my happiness, comfort, and safety first every time. But God says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Because I’m afraid. Afraid that if I ask God where he wants me to get involved, it might be uncomfortable. Afraid that I’ll fail. Afraid, somewhere deep inside of me, that if I do these hard things and invest in others, no one will take care of me, not even God.
But God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And I want to trust him and his promises over my fears and faults and faithlessness—and then obey.
Whenever you’re not sure what being a Giver looks like, come to Jesus and ask, “Who is my neighbor?” He’s always willing to answer that question and will usually emphasize an issue, a person, a group of people, or a ministry, something that keeps coming up in your mind and heart. Go after that need. Learn more, get involved, make it a regular part of your prayer time, talk to others, give even when it hurts.
Let’s refuse to turn away and choose radical love instead, because that’s what Jesus did for us.