Earlier today, a friend sent me the link to a blog post she recommended. I set it aside for later, and ended up reading it when I came home from my Thursday-night Bible study.* As is so often the case, the timing was perfect.
The post (Marhaba–God is Love) is about the war in Syria and the country’s displaced peoples, written by a Christian Australian documentarian. Go read it. I’ll wait.
. . .
It was especially convicting for me to read. It served as a reminder of the horrible conditions and events in this world. It also reminded me how often I lack compassion and harden my heart and fail to do the good that I could.
The blog post includes links for readers to donate to World Vision’s relief work in Syria. With little else to do about the situation, I made a donation. It seemed like a sacrificial amount, given my (as of this posting) unemployed status. But as I thought about it, and what had compelled me, it really didn’t seem like all that much after all.
Not only was I inspired to give because of the post itself, but also by an effective illustration a man in my Bible study gave tonight. The study is discussing the old debate of faith vs. works (relating to Luther’s Treatise On Christian Liberty), and he shared how he explained it to children at Sunday school.
Doing good works for our own sake (such as a mistaken belief that works bring salvation) is similar to trying to share a small pack of M&Ms we got at Halloween. There is very little to go around, and so we’re inclined to be stingy. When doing good works for the Lord’s sake, or for others’ sake, it is as though we are sharing M&Ms that we receive truckloads of every week, directly from the Supplier. In the latter case, we can be generous because it’s not really ours to begin with, and because there is more than enough for all. (God supplies not only the earthly resources such as food or funds, or even energy to carry out duties, but also the grace and compassion that compels us.)
I’m so thankful he shared that with us, even though we don’t know each other, because it encouraged the mindset I needed to have when I came home and read that post.
After I read that blog post, I wept a little, knowing how I lack in compassion and so often look the other way or shrug off the troubles of another and thank God that someone else can see to their needs. I know I tend to be cold-hearted, selfish, and judgmental, and tend to look down on people that Jesus loves as much as He loves me (meaning He came to earth to suffer and die for their sins just as much as for mine), and have ignored or rebuffed people who have been friendly to me, simply because I was suspicious of their motives or couldn’t be bothered to respond in kind.
I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for God to renew my heart, to give me His heart for others, for not only the people suffering the calamities of war in the Middle East, but the person standing in front of me at the grocery store checkout. I prayed for the courage and compassion to take action when I see a need I am capable of meeting. I wept for the times I had failed.
In the midst of that, God broke through my thoughts (still so self-centered!) and said, “It’s a good thing it isn’t up to you.”
And that’s the blessed relief.
God uses people in many ways to carry out His work and His will, but the end result doesn’t depend on us. God doesn’t need us. We need Him, and we are blessed to be a part of His work in this world and this life. But He could do it all another way if He chose. Ultimately, it’s God Who will win, Who will prevail, Who will receive the glory, Who will have the last word.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” ~ Luke 19:39-40
We are to obey Him, to serve, and to love. But it is not up to us to right all the wrongs or to change the world. If it were, we might as well give up now, because with our sinful natures and limited human strength and compassion, we could never succeed.
God can’t screw it up, even if we fail to do what we should or could. Whatever we do or fail to do, God is at work behind the scenes. He is always there, forgiving our neglect or missteps, working to bring His will closer to fulfillment–in spite of our worst efforts.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” ~ Revelation 21:3-5
* Side note to share: In recent weeks, I have become a member of a local Lutheran church (LCMS, specifically), which is worth a dozen blog posts in itself. The Thursday night Bible study is taught by the lead pastor and is an all-ages Bible study, not a location- or age- or “life stage”-specific small group, and I am loving it.