"It is not a mistake that we are called to love our neighbor. Empathetic feelings about a tragedy far, far away, whether it be a little girl’s death, or an earthquake in Japan, can’t run that deep, given that we aren’t in the least jolted to see the coverage we are watching be interrupted by a pitch to switch which brand of dish soap we use. It is faux empathy, faux compassion, just enough to persuade us that in feeling bad we have actually done something.Read the whole article here >>>
"Real empathy requires real relationships with real people, with real neighbors. Were we invested in those closest to us, our families, our neighbors, our pew neighbors we would live real lives."
Where this hits home for me is in my quest to serve God for His glory and His kingdom. So often, I feel such a deep empathy for people on the fringe -- folks that don't fit in to the immediate community: the alien, the widow, the fatherless, the elderly, the unchurched, and so forth. I actively give and seek out opportunities to be involved in the lives of these people in order to make friendships and share Christ. Yet, in God's infinite wisdom (or should I say sarcasm and irony??), He has given me neighbors, roommates, coworkers, and even family members who all fall into these same categories. God has brought my mission field home to me (as He probably is doing with most Americans these days).
How do I serve my own neighbors in the immediate context and vocations in which God has already placed me?? Certainly, if my daily obedience and effectiveness are to be of any measure or confirmation of my supposed calling or vocation to such a mission, I am sadly misguided.
Sometimes, when I am reminded that Jesus himself said, "A prophet has no honor in his hometown" (John 4:44), I feel like I might be making excuses and trying to "get myself off the hook". But certainly there is truth in the Word of God! I more often than not beat myself up for not loving the people close to me very well or not being gracious enough in sharing God's Word. It is good to be sensitive to such matters. However, it is also important to remember that the Pharisees witnessed nearly ALL of Jesus's miracles and even that could not persuade them to the truth of God's Word.
In fact, what Jesus tells many of the recipients of his miracles to do as his disciples is to go tell the people where they came from what the Lord has done for them. Jesus heals a person whom He has found outside of the community, living on the fringe in someway, and then sends them back into the community where they came from to tell what He has done for them. He does this with the demoniac, the Samaritan Woman, the paralytic and a number of others. Meanwhile, as the outcasts are being brought back in, Jesus leaves or is sent out of the land where he performed the miracle -- back to more outcasts.
My point is that while we clearly are commanded to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, I also have to remind myself that the quality, frequency, and consistency of my love toward them is not the main determination of the outcome of their response toward God. That is a huge relief and a heavy burden removed! Yes, I pray for a moldable heart that is conformed to likeness of our loving Savior's gracious heart toward me and that I'll be ready to give graciously just as I have received grace from Him. And I know that God rworks through us this way. But simultaneously I know that if God is working in them, He can even use my filthy rags of intended good deeds to glorify Himself, even if my efforts appear to be utter failures.
This motivates me to keep pointing to the Cross of Christ, even among people who as of today I have a hard time loving the way I am called to. Lord, use your weak vessel to glorify yourself and to make your Gospel shine even through a cracked pot like me. Amen