Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Several years ago a very dear friend of mine headed up a ministry he titled “Within Reach”. The idea was that our neighbors are those who are within our immediate vicinity and we not only have the opportunity to show them Christ through our love, we are mandated by God as His people to love them. The concept included a collaboration of churches that needed a specific process in place to help the community of people that are always at the door, looking for help, needing the support that they can’t sustain themselves. I was asked to head up the men’s discipleship portion of the ministry, another lady headed up the women’s, there were others who helped with ministerial unification, accounting, distribution of funds, and so on. The concept was embraced by neighboring churches, the funds we needed to grow were coming in and the word was getting out to the community.
Once this loving and gentle pastor established this ministry through much prayer and wisdom, he sensed the need to start relinquishing the duties to another. He had been in ministry for many, many years and was recognizing the need to slow down, his health was becoming an issue and his growing family was also a priority for his time.
Within 2 years time, the ministry of Within Reach had ended, the people that took it over had restructured the ministry and attempted to carry the weight of the load themselves, it became too much to bear and it eventually collapsed. Although well meaning and godly people, they didn’t carry the same vision as the founding leader had established from the onset and what God had been building through a faithful servant became a practice of works.
Godly leaders can be well intentioned but still miss the mark.
Galatians 5:14 “The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
How do we love others effectively?
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book several years ago called “The five love languages”. These love languages included words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
I don’t want to try and take anything away from Dr. Chapman but having read the book and taken it to heart many years ago, I can relate to what he revealed. The concept that people receive love differently is an important concept to take into consideration. My wife and I still bring these concepts into view when we show love to one another. What may be important to you may not be important to another. What you would consider a loving act might not carry the same weight when done for someone who receives love in a different way. As an example, my wife loves it when I do acts of service for her, helping clean the house or kitchen is an act that she really appreciates. If I go up to her and give her a big squeeze and tell her I love her, she might appreciate the affection but the embrace bothers her neck and her chronic spine issues would not appreciate the love I’m trying to express. If I want my wife to feel loved, I would do what she loves, not what I love.
Love expressed to others carries much of the same weight. Sometimes just being a listening ear is enough to express love, or helping rake the leaves in a neighbor’s yard shows them the kindness and love you want them to know.
Sometimes, what we don’t do is an expression of love.
Romans 13:10 “Love does no wrong to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I’ve discovered through many years of outreach that love isn’t always expressed in the ways you might think.
When talking with many of my friends on the street, I’ve come to realize the struggle within that community is one that must be addressed at their level, not how I think it should be. When I hear from someone that has come out of addiction, they tell me that a placard held on the street corner, asking for money, is almost always turned into purchasing drugs or alcohol that feeds their addiction. I know of many places for people to get food, starvation in America is difficult to do, unless you don’t know the resources available. Stand at the corner of any Mcdonald’s and it doesn’t take long for that person to receive an entire meal from someone who wants to show love.
Do I love someone by giving them money that feeds their destructive habit?
I’ve learned that if someone holds a sign that says I’m hungry and I offer to take them to get a meal and they refuse, they aren’t hungry…they have an ulterior motive.
My responsibility as a believer in Christ with a knowledge of things to come, is to present the gospel in a way that is effective. If a little bit of money is what separates me from sharing the gospel with another, even if that money is going to be used for something I disagree with, I have bridged that gap so as to leave them with something far more precious than gold. The life of an unbeliever is marching straight toward Hell. Their life is more important than my conviction.
Many years ago I brought my wife with me to do street evangelism. Along a particular stretch of road in my town resided a large homeless population. We would as a group split off into groups of 2 or 3 and fan out over the city to reach those people where they were at, whether they were homeless or out on the town for the night. I would carry a backpack with clothes, blankets, or gospel tracts to leave with people and then simply walk the street and talk with people about Jesus. My wife, who is very reserved and quiet would listen and usually try to connect with the women that crossed our paths, the problem arose when men who recognized my cute little wife wanted to give her long hugs. For my wife, who didn’t want to offend, she would give the hug but reluctantly, it became clear that the men wanting to connect with her were driven by lust, not love. Once we realized her presence was a hindrance for these men, we redirected her enthusiasm for outreach toward a ministry that had a focus on women and children, it was there that she thrived.
Sometimes, well meaning people who then attempt to bless others think their affection will be received regardless of the situation but their act of love becomes a hindrance for the gospel, not a help. Being wise in how others receive love is an important step to effectively administering grace.
Anyone can give money, food, or clothing, unless the means of how love is expressed carries the weight of Christ-like love, then the outreach is just another practice in altruism.
The people who give apart from Christ will not receive any reward in God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
Out of the heart proceeds the motivation for love. If your heart is full of darkness then you cannot please God, no matter how much the world praises your efforts. If you even give a cup of cold water out of a heart of love that is filled with the Love of God, the Lord takes notice!
Bad giving is giving from a selfish motivation. You might hear someone give a reason for their giving by saying “I just like to give to others”. This might sound noble but it is actually selfish in origin. They might as well say, “It makes me feel good about myself when I give to others”. Self-justification is the attempt at making myself righteous by my own acts that I deem good. Watch the fruit that is born from someone who acts on their own behalf, you will not see righteousness coming out of their lives, you will not see glory returned to the Lord, you see someone feeding their own ego and only satisfying the temporary needs of those who are used to taking from someone else all their life.
Matthew 10:42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
There is a reason people are broken and in need. The addiction or hunger are just symptoms of a history of abuse, hopelessness, and pain that have never been resolved. Sometimes laziness is a factor but even that shame is a result of poor teaching that was never received.
Giving that comes from the love of God expressed to others, carries the message of the Cross.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was the expression of God’s love to the world. The selflessness that Jesus exhibited was taken to the extreme by the way He gave of Himself…..We are called to model this same behavior.
When the love of God fills your heart, you want to give it away.
Find the means by which God wants to express His love through you and then do it with all your heart. Remember…It’s not about you!