So we’ve reached the last installment of my 3-part series motivated by the Christmas song “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” In the previous post, I listed out 4 things the lyricist asks Santa for which God has already promised to satisfy. In this post I intend to offer some encouragement for Christians to be agents of change practically in this world.
My basis for offering this encouragement is the Gospel. If I don’t lay this foundation then my encouragements will come across as guilt trips and fail to miss the crucial point that we need a new heart which only the Gospel supplies. If you work to improve social ills without the Gospel, then you will inevitably do it for your own self-satisfaction or to feel like your life has meaning. Your satisfaction needs to be established already by the Gospel in order to treat social ills correctly and to guard you from burning out.
So then, how does the Gospel function as the motivation for improving social conditions? Let me present three ways:
1. The mission of Christ’s first coming was to become poor so that the spiritually impoverished could become rich.
2. The mission of Christ’s first coming was to become broken so that the spiritually sick could become whole.
3. The mission of Christ’s first coming was to become fatherless so that spiritual orphans could become the children of God.
Think about how you have been affected in each of those three categories by the work of Christ. Now, I’m not going to spend time treating those. For the Christian, I think you can understand where I’m getting them from. (Perhaps in the future I’ll do a more thorough job with those points.) So with those three things in view, let’s turn them into Gospel-motivated, tangible action.
1. Impoverishing Ourselves for the Poor
Poverty is a major influence on a number of other social issues: racism, child neglect, drug addiction, and starvation to name a few. The more that people gather in urban areas, the less autonomous they become. That is, since people in urban or suburban areas cannot grow their own food, milk their own cows, and dig a well for their own water, they must have currency to exchange for life’s essentials. When a person does not have the power to earn enough money (due to either their own poor choices or uncontrollable circumstances) then they cannot get what they need to sustain life.
Poverty is becoming an increasing problem because the world is becoming more and more urbanized. And it is, in turn, promoting many other social ills. So what should Christians do?
Well to start, they should go to where people are hurting. This was Jesus’ method. He saw our poverty and came to us. Through sin, we were spiritually poor, having nothing with which we could bring to God to show our worth. So Christ, came to us that He might give us His righteousness and turn our spiritual poverty into unparalleled gain. Dear brothers and sisters, make it a mission to bring people out of poverty, just as Christ has done for you! Does this mean you have to go half way around the world? Nope. I guarantee there are poor people suffering in a city near you.
Second, they should give their resources so that the poor might become satisfied. Christ spared nothing for our sakes. He gave up His status, His comfort, His home, His company, and His love so that we might experience all of those things. Are you willing, with overflowing joy, to do the same for others so that they may know the Christ which you proclaim? And even if they don’t come to know Him, will you do it anyway out of gratitude to Christ?
2. Becoming Sick to Make Others Well
I won’t spend too much time here because this can become kind of abstract. But, here is my basic point: are you willing to give your comfort and even your health for the sake of others? Caring for people who are sick is a tremendous burden and puts you at risk of becoming sick yourself. But do you value your health and your comfort so much that you would hold onto it when you could give it for the sake of others?
Isaiah 53:5 tells of the day when our healing came through His stripes. Jesus was made sick and cursed so that our souls could be healed and we could be blessed. What a great Savior! Out of love for Christ, let us give up our comforts so that we may comfort others!
3. Fathering the Fatherless
For those of you who know my vocation, you will understand how dear orphan care is to me. Even though God’s adoption of Israel isn’t explicit in the Old Testament, they are referred to as His children many times. In the New Testament, one of the blessings associated with salvation is that of adoption. This elevates those whom God has redeemed from more than mere slaves or servants who owe Him a debt, but it assigns them the status of beloved children. At one time God was not our father. But He gave His only biological (begotten) Son, so that He could have myriads of adopted sons and daughters.
There are 147 million global orphans. There are 423,000 children in U.S. foster care who either need temporary care from loving foster parents or an adoptive family. Will you consider caring for orphans so that you may lavish them with the same love that God has lavished upon you? It is a parable to the world of what God has done to enlarge His family.
My prayer, brothers and sisters, is that you love Christ. I pray that you continue to see the many facets of His great love with which He has loved you. But my prayer doesn’t end there. I pray that the appreciation you have for Christ overflows in good deeds to those who cannot pay you back. Is that not what Christ has done? He has paid a debt that we could never pay, so that we could have eternal life that we don’t deserve.
So when next Christmas comes around, don’t ask Santa to fix the world. Trust that God will one day redeem it completely, and do what you can, with the power and influence you have, to enact change now. The poor, the sick, and the fatherless are in despair all year round. Don’t wait until next Christmas to be charitable, start now.
May your increasing gratitude toward Christ produce an increase of self-sacrifical deeds toward suffering people!