As I have been going through an extended, informal study on LOVE, I am struck by how little I actually know about love, and its implications in my own life. We all like to be “in love“, but there is way more to LOVE than warm and fuzzy feelings. Love without action is hollow and meaningless. Until we learn to DO, we aren’t really LOVING.
This particular study was precipitated by one of the recent daily devotionals in Our Daily Bread, which I read every night before hitting the sheets. This is a “boots on the ground” application of “Love your neighbor as yourself“. We honor Him who IS love when we love others as He loves us.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)
Does verse 40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” get your attention? It should, and I pray that it will before you finish reading this piece.
I was hungry…
Food is necessary for life, but there are far too many people, even here in the US, who go without sufficient food to eat. Even if they have a roof over their head, they may not have enough to eat. Where can the homeless go for a good meal? Do you support a local food-kitchen? Do you contribute to a local food-bank? How about supporting a local homeless-shelter or rescue-mission? They feed the homeless.
I was thirsty…
Most of us take clean, drinkable water for granted, but not everyone has this luxury. Most of us can go to our fridge, where we have a wide variety of things to drink, when we are thirsty, but not everyone has this luxury. How many times have you given someone something to drink who didn’t have the resources to get one themselves?
About thirty years ago, I was responsible for a project in a remote location. We were twenty miles from nowhere, and the nearest water of any kind was a quarter of a mile away. It was easy enough to go around the corner of the building to relieve ourselves, but we were in the desert with nothing to drink. Fortunately my per diem enabled me to buy a cooler, which I stocked it with ice and cold drinks every day, or my crew would have gone without something to drink. Fueled by plentiful cold drinks, my crew finished the project in eight days, two days ahead of schedule, and I learned a valuable lesson. When you treat people like you really care about them, they are far more willing to put their hands to the task at hand.
I was a stranger…
I have already mentioned the homeless, but do we really know how many homeless people there are, even in our own communities? Our governments have sent thousands of soldiers to fight various “wars“, and when some of them return home, they have no “home” to return to. Homeless veterans are a national travesty, because we have stolen their youthful vigor but given them nothing in return. Do you support a local homeless shelter? How about a rescue mission?
Two more categories of the “homeless” are often hidden in the shadows, because we don’t see the women who have fled domestic violence or the girls and women who are facing a crisis pregnancy, alone. There aren’t enough shelters for women who have fled domestic violence, and probably never will be, but every one is one better than nothing. Crisis pregnancy centers provide a valuable service to girls and women who have no other place to go for help during their pregnancy. Those shelters need a steady supply of food, clothing and other supplies just to keep their doors open. Do you support them when you are able?
I was naked…
Have you ever seen anyone wearing threadbare rags for clothes? “I was naked” refers to being so dirt-poor that a person can’t even get the clothes they need to provide them protection from the elements, and has nothing to do with people who choose to live a clothes-free lifestyle. The most basic purpose of clothes IS protection from the elements, which is why God, in the Old Testament, commanded creditors to return a person’s garment, which they had pledged for a debt, before the sun went down, so that person would have something to help them keep warm at night.
Many of us have closets that are overflowing with excess amounts of clothing, but how often do we think of paring back our wardrobe and donating those extra garments to some place, such as a homeless shelter, where someone else could get good use of them? What about donating them to a thrift-store? If a poor person doesn’t even have money for food, how are they going to afford clothes, even at a thrift store?
I was sick…
Hospitals are NOT my favorite places to hang out, but I know one particular hospital far better than I really care to, because I have cared for someone who was sick. There are many ways to care for the sick besides camping out at a hospital. One young lady in my church had major surgery almost immediately after giving birth to their second child, so some of the ladies in the church organized a feeding campaign to both make sure that family was well-fed, and to make sure that someone was there on a regular basis to help with basic housework, etc. After another young lady gave birth to their second child, the ladies got busy making sure that she and her family were also well cared-for. Those are tangible ways of caring for people who can’t care for themselves for whatever reason.
When was the last time you took the time to take someone to a doctor appointment? Were you available to go with someone who had an out-patient surgery?
I was in prison…
Prison ministry is a tough gig, but it can be very rewarding. I don’t know first-hand, but I have heard accounts from people who are involved in prison ministry. Chuch Colson, a political insider under President Nixon, was sent to prison during the Watergate scandal. He had been led to the Lord shortly before he went to prison, and he founded Prison Fellowship after he got out.
What is the common thread?
All of these things have to do with meeting people’s basic needs, and every one of them requires ACTION. These are “boots of the ground” ways of showing love to others who are in need. This isn’t about government welfare or social programs. This is about the people of God caring for those who can’t care for themselves in our own communities.
The typical, and “pious” response response of many Christians is “I will pray for you“, however, when Jesus was faced with over five thousand hungry people, He didn’t just pray for them. He fed them, and it required that His disciples become the agents of feeding them by distributing the food. His disciples couldn’t just sit on their thumbs and expect all that food to distribute itself.
“I will pray for you” is far more meaningful to a sick person when you are sitting by their side, whether at their home or in their hospital room. “I will pray for you” is far more meaningful to a hungry person when you have just brought a hot meal to them. “I will pray for you” becomes far more meaningful to a homeless person when you give them a ride to a homeless shelter. “I will pray for you” becomes far more meaningful to someone living on the street when you give them a warm coat to help keep them warm after the sun goes down. “I will pray for you” becomes far more meaningful when it is accompanied by action which helps meet the needs of the person you are trying to serve.
This catches me also, because, even though I have done some of these things, I could do more. I have untapped resources which I could be using to show God’s love to others. No, this isn’t a “checklist“, but it is a good reminder that I can never repay the debt of love I owe to Him who has given so much love to me. This is more of a “pay it forward” in gratitude for what He has done for me.
Maybe it WILL make a difference if I remember that, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
How about you? Have you done it for Jesus?