By Dino Rizzo
Responsibility is a big idea – often the answers tothe questions are bigger than we want to accept. Today, it is more important than ever that we understand our responsibility as God's people. I believe this to be true because as our world's instability and volatility increase, so will the potential for an even greater harvestof souls. People will begin to look for help more and more as the world begins to groan under the strain of the future.
To be responsible is to be “answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management.” God expressed His view of responsibility in the instructions He gave the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 22:1-4 (NIV). Check it out: “If you see your brother's ox or sheep straying, do not ignore itbut be sure to take it back to him. If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him. Do the same if you find your brother's donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it. If you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet.” God makes it crystal clear that He wants us to not ignore our brother's problem. We are to engage to help him.
Jesus described this mindset in the story of the Good Samaritan. Two “church” people – a priest and a Levite – passed by the need. Maybe they were preoccupied with their religious duties that were ahead for them (“If I stop to help,I might be late for that webinar about personal evangelism”). Or maybe they were afraid for their own safety (“After all, the thugs that had tagged the dude laying in the ditch could still be nearby”). Either way, they did not engage the need. They disconnected. It wouldn't surprise me if they sent a text to someone about how they won't come this way again because of all the riff-raff making it too dangerous.
But then along came one of those who were considered riff-raff (which is exactly how the Samaritans were viewed). This man saw the need, and not only ignored the potential danger, but totally disregarded the separation of classes that would have disqualified him from engaging with this man under normal circumstances. He put his own life at risk and on hold to help a wounded stranger in the ditch.
It is our God-given responsibility to convey hope. True hope comes only from learning that Jesus has provided a better way – a way out from all the traps and snares that imprison people. The Church must not ignore the need around us. If we do, all the sermons and sanctuaries will soon be meaningless and empty. We must preach – absolutely. The message must come through that Jesus is the hope of the world. But that message will not be heard if we ignore the need of those we intend to preach to.
I fully believe that the Church should lead the way in caring for the poor and hurting in our communities. Here are five things we should realize and remember about our responsibility and social justice.
1. Justice means seeing the poor as Jesus sees them.
They may look different than you. They may speak a different language, eat different food, and dress different than you. Don't ever allow an arrogance to seep into your spirit that says because they're different they're less valuable
2. Justice is more than just a cool thing to do.
Tori Ohlerking, a young girl on our staff at Healing Place Church put it this way: “Obedience to God is the ultimate response to this broken world's needs. Justice isn't about being trendy. It isn't about legalism. He wants us let go of ritual, let go of rules, let go of just going through the motions. Instead, He wants us to tune our ears to cries of the poor and to do all that is in our power to answer those cries.”
We have to realize that it isn't about us. It is about those who are hurting and broken. We are to simply be God's people doing God's work for God's glory.
3. Justice isn't justice if it is only short-term.
We must work continually to ensure that our efforts are not just a hit-and-run, but that we are engaging for the long haul. It isn't enough to dig a well in Africa and leave it there. Nor would it help much to feed a thousand kids for a week then head back home. It would leave them right where you found them. No, justice requires a longer timeline for our engagement.
4. Justice is bigger than any of us can do alone.
We must realize that the needs of this world are greater than any one church or any individual can meet alone. My prayer is, “Lord, raise up something in us that will assume responsibility for the needs we see, regardless of what else is going on. Give us the willingness to be blended together over and over again. Help us to lay down our egos and reshape us to serve people together with no strings attached.”
5. Justice is something everyone can do something about.
Through simply loving, caring, giving and embracing a hurting world, doors open to pour in God's love. We have started calling it a “servolution” - a revolution ignited by serving those no one wants to serve, doing the outreaches that seem too difficult or too lowly, and loving those that feel like they are unlovable. It is serving people in the style of Jesus when he washed the feet of his disciples.
Start simple. It doesn't take a lot of money to visit a widow. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cook a breakfast for the homeless. Just start where you are and do what you can.
When we see someone in need, we cannot ignore it. Exactly what is my problem? Your problem is my problem, and my problem is your problem. Together we will change the world if we keep engaging it with a passion to serve others' needs.