A few years ago, I was playing soccer with a group of teens from the church where I was serving as a pastor. In my upper 30’s by that point, I was getting older and slower while the teens were on the upward progression of getting faster and stronger.
On this particular evening, there came a moment when the ball was in the open field. A tall, athletic teenage boy from the other team started running for it at the same time I did. We were both running towards the ball – and each other – at full speed. Granted, he was running much faster than I was! We met at the ball, at which point his knee made direct contact with my shin. He hopped up and kept running. I crumpled to the ground, head spinning, seeing stars, and sick to my stomach from the pain that shot through my entire body.
As it turned out, I had not broken my leg, but I sure thought I had! In that moment, I completely forgot about the game and everything else around me. I was wondering, “Was I going to throw up? Would I be able to walk again soon? What impact would this have on my ministry? How was I going to explain this to my doctor … and my wife?!” All my thoughts revolved around me, myself, and I.
Our tendency as fallen human beings is to turn our focus inward on ourselves when we suffer pain. Presently, the COVID-19 pandemic is a painful crisis. As a result, the temptation to turn our focus inward is strong. We may become so focused on how this crisis affects us and our closest loved ones that we give little thought to anyone else. That is not God’s design for His people. For, while it is important to responsibly look out for own interests, it is also critical that we look out for the interests of others.
Blessed To Be A Blessing
In the last couple of weeks, I have encouraged each of us to remember to pray and rest. In doing so, you are availing yourself to the gracious ministries of God’s comfort during these difficult times. However, in God’s economy, the comfort that He extends to you is meant to be extended to others through you. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God comforts you so that you might comfort others. More broadly, God blesses you so that you might be a blessing to others. Consider the words of Ira Wilson in the familiar hymn, “Make Me A Blessing.” For you barbershop fans out there, you may enjoy this recording!
Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you; Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine; Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
Love Your Neighbor
In blessing others out of the blessings God gave you, you are being obedient to the second greatest commandment. For, in response to a question from the Jewish leaders about the Mosaic Law, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
But, who is your neighbor? Jesus answered that question, too, in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37). In that passage, Jesus described two men. First, “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead” (v. 30). Second, “a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where [the first man] was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (v. 33). In this way, Jesus illustrated through the exemplary actions of the Samaritan that your “neighbor” whom you are to love is anyone in your path who has a need for which God has given you the capacity to meet … even if it’s costly. That eliminates a lot of the excuses we make for refusing to help others, doesn’t it?
Of course, part of the problem for many of us is that we are not really paying attention to the needs all around us, especially when crises like this pandemic enter into our lives. In these times, our focus shifts inward on ourselves and our closest friends and family. Again, it’s not bad to look out for the interests of you and your loved ones. However, God expects more from His people who have been redeemed by His grace. He expects us to love others like Jesus loved us. Paul writes, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Now, some may say, “But, I don’t really have any opportunities that I’m aware of right now.” Respectfully, I would challenge you to consider the possibility that your focus is a little bit too inward and maybe you’re not really paying attention. I fall into the same trap myself! If you aren’t seeing any opportunities to do good to others in your path, pray and ask God to open your eyes. Then, actively look for opportunities! Here are a few you might consider.
Sew Face Masks. If God has gifted you in the area of sewing, there is a great grassroots initiative around the country to be sewing face masks. We even have a group at FCC engaged in this project right now. Let us know if you’d like to join in!
Pick Up Your Phone. As I have spoken to people around our congregation, many have expressed discouragement and frustration over being isolated from others. As you pray for your church family and others God has placed in your path, why don’t you pick up your phone and give them a call? Or send out cards or encouraging notes through the mail. It will take more time and effort than a simple text message or social media post, but it will mean so much more.
Support Local Businesses. As you are undoubtedly aware, many local businesses, including some that are owned by members of our FCC family, are having a rough time right now. Consider how you could support them with your business during this economic crisis.
Those are just a few ideas. As you pray and ask God to open your eyes, I’m sure you’ll see more. The important thing is that we remember more and more that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others whom He has placed in our path. Remember to love others. In the words of Matthew West (listen here), “If not us, then who, if not me and you, right now? It's time for us to do something!”