A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned going to a local ministry fundraiser for the Root Cellar. The speaker for the event made a really interesting comment that night that has been stuck in my head ever since. He mentioned that, most likely, John 3:16 is the best known Scripture in the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I'm sure you've heard it a time or two yourself. Interestingly, he mentioned that he was actually partial to "the other John 3:16"... specifically 1 John 3:16. So... I was more than a little amused this morning when I saw that Chan references that passage in the book.
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Then this is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us."
1 John 3:16-20
Chan goes on to say the following: "In this passage, we see that John questions whether it is possible to truly have God's love in you if you have no compassion for the poor... God didn't just give a little for us; He gave His best. He gave Himself. John is saying that it's no different for us: True love requires sacrifice. And our love is shown by how we live our lives: 'Let us not love with words or tongues but with action and in truth.'" p. 119
We can talk the talk...but do we walk the walk? Better yet: Does our walk MATCH our talk? Almost instantaneously, when I start talking about "compassion for the poor," I'm IMMEDIATELY convicted about the way I live my life. Yes, I live paycheck to paycheck like so many other Americans... but, if I'm honest with you...let alone myself... I would have to admit that the reason I live paycheck to paycheck is because of the things I have. I easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others: "Well, I don't have a fancy car like so and so," or "I don't waste my money on the latest electronics." I don't even have a cell phone! But, if we've learned anything from this book, comparing ourselves to others is pointless. We are looked upon as individuals...compared only to the one standard that matters... His standard.
Like I said... I'm convicted about how I live my life! But, what do I do with that? Do I sell everything and move into an inner city neighborhood... move to Africa? (Yes, I have truly considered both of those!) But, despite my hearts desire to do both of those things, is it what God wants from me? I don't know the answer to that... but I ask Him almost everyday. Yet, until I get some sort of direction from Him, what am I suppose to do? What are you suppose to do? I'm not sure if I have the right answer, but I can share with you what I've been doing... and it definitely has changed my heart for the better.
I want to go back to an excerpt from The Hole in Our Gospel. It says: "Divided between the things of God and the things of the world, our 'hearts of stone' are incapable of loving the poor unless God changes them to hearts of 'flesh.' Should this not cause us to plead with God daily... for our hearts to be 'broken by the things that break the heart of God'?" p. 116
After pondering this for a while, this is my interpretation: Our struggles with the things of this world inevitably turn our hearts to stone. For me, I'm ashamed to admit... sometimes I find myself motivated more to help the poor out of obligation than love... duty instead of compassion. I hold on to the things of this world with one arm WHILE I "help" the poor with my other arm. Imagine what He could do with me if I allowed Him to use both arms? But the key here is that I have to WILLINGLY let go of the things I'm clinging to in this world. How does that happen? For me... and granted, I'm STILL struggling with this... things started to change when I started asking God to "break my heart for what breaks yours." I've found that when my heart breaks for something, whether it's for my children, my friends or the poor, I am moved into action without thinking... without weighing "cost to benefit." I move because it's what I want to do. I think that's the question we should be asking ourselves: What do we want to do? Does your answer line up with God's plan. If not, maybe you should try asking Him to do a little work on your heart as well!
Take a look at this video. It's an amazing song that really speaks to the subject of this blog today. If you don't have the time to watch the whole video, at least watch from 3:12 to 4:00. The lyrics during this segment are an INCREDIBLE prayer that I have used quite a few times!