Serving vs. Debating Humanity

Guest Author: Teresa Strickler In Matt. 25:34-40, as Jesus was teaching his disciples about the return of the Son of Man (v. 31), he described the following scene:

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. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’

In comprehensive study of the New Testament, we learn all of the elements of obedience required in our response to God’s grace. We know that good deeds alone do not earn us salvation any more than getting wet in a baptistery does. Jesus taught His disciples in this passage that serving human needs could not be ignored by those who would follow him. This is just one context in the four Gospels where Jesus instructed His followers about the ultimate value of the people around them.

Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and social media, there are never ending opportunities for Christians to weigh in on causes. We can fight on either side of a wide selection of debates daily online. It is evident the convenience of the internet has given many people courage to speak on issues they did not speak on in newspapers or city council meetings. Christians have the opportunity to increase their individual civic awareness and respond to issues, and in doing so they can be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” that Jesus described in Matt. 5:13-16. After generations of Christians have chosen to bail on cultural and political issues, leaving modern society vulnerable to ungodly leaders, I believe it is good that people are choosing to try to be aware of what is happening around them.

Some important questions to consider before we get on our hobby horses and respond to posts are how our response will help other people, and how our response will reflect on the gospel of Christ. Will we jump on the band wagon of modern philosophies such as “in your face!”, “it’s my right!”, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”, “that’s your problem!”, and “you don’t have the right not to be offended!”? Will non-Christian readers be drawn closer to seeking Christ because they read what we wrote? Will fellow Christians cringe after reading our comments, or will their faith be uplifted?

I have never read in a comment stream of people being persuaded to change their minds based on snarky, or clever one-liners from the opposing side. In fact, the comment streams I have made the mistake of getting involved in became exercises in escalation of force. If the conversations had taken place in person, I am sure physical injury would have occurred.

At the same time these online battles are occurring, there are people in the real world working to make it a better place. They choose to include serving people in their communities as part of their lives. Their activities include part-time volunteering or full-time working with vulnerable populations such as the homeless or abused or prisoners or elderly. Instead of sitting at their laptops, some choose to leave the comfort of their home lives to serve people locally and overseas.

This week the news has reported about a young woman, Kayla Jean Mueller, who was described by her Mother as “…a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.” This young woman, in her mid-twenties, died while in prison. She acted on her desire to serve humanity, both in her home country and abroad, regardless of the danger to herself. Instead of pithy comebacks on a comment stream, Kayla will be remembered for the last letter she sent home in the hands of fellow prisoners. The love she expressed to them, and her stated surrender to God are beautiful sentiments from a tender heart more concerned for others than herself. In that concern she exhibited the humble, serving spirit described by Jesus in the passage quoted at the beginning of this blog. It is not possible or responsible for all Christians to abandon their homes for overseas missions. However, humanity surrounds us; we have many choices in how to serve them and in humble ways be the salt and the light. Let us be inspired by examples such as Kayla to spend more time in the real world serving rather than on line debating humanity.

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