This characteristic is quite similar to the first one Chan mentioned. In fact, the only difference is that it specifically places a spotlight on those in need (and the potential corruption of riches)... and what we should be doing about it if we truly consider ourselves followers of Jesus.
"People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (1 John 2:4-6; Matt. 16:24-26)." p. 135
Even though Chan doesn't mention it in this section, I can't help but think about Matthew 25:34-36:
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."
I have to admit that God's timing... His providence... is pretty amazing. After our Christmas Day outing, as mentioned before, my husband and I have been consumed with this topic. The fact that I'm getting a double dose of it this week is not a coincidence! On top of that, got a call today from a dear friend- by far the most influential mentor I've had in my faith journey. She had been reading the blog and wanted to discuss one of the topics... which dealt with homelessness. This conversation sent me on mission, of sorts... to see what Scripture says about our role in taking care of the homeless. But, in conjunction with that, also learning the difference between what He calls ALL of us to do as Christians, with what He calls each of us to do as individuals.
When talking to my husband about this, we specifically looked at Matt 25:35: "...I was a stranger and you took Me in." The obvious question here is whether or not this to be taken literally. I won't go into the debate here, but I will share the conclusion we came up with (and by all means, have the debate amongst yourselves... God might place a different conclusion on your heart!) It goes without saying that my husband always errs on the side of caution... it's an occupational hazard. On a daily basis, he sees examples of people taken advantage of, and in some cases, hurt and even killed, because of their generosity (or naivety). Now some people might read what I just wrote and say, "Well then, so be it. We will be martyrs for our faith." But first, I'd like to ask you to ponder something before you make any proclamations. Another Scripture that comes to mind in this situation is Luke 18:29-30:
“'Truly I tell you,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.'" (Luke 9:22-26 might even be a better example!)
Now, I know some people that read this Scripture with an interpretation that requires all of us, in one way or another, to sacrifice our families in order to retain our inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven. But, the problem I have with this is that when you step back and look at the totality of Scripture, this seems somewhat contradictory. There are countless Scriptures reiterating the importance of family, of protecting our children. When I began to dig a little deeper yesterday, it became evident that through dissection of the Scriptures... specifically the context in which each Scripture was written, that all of these pronouncements ring true... HOWEVER, it's in our application of these Scriptures that things start to get a little muddled.
Yes, family is important and we are to protect our children. BUT, if God calls us to do something that might upset the apple cart, if you will...then Luke 18:29-30 should be used as our guide. I can't help but think of Lisa Chan as I write this. Before leaving on their trip, she talked about the fear she felt when thinking about taking her children overseas, not knowing what to expect. Of one thing she was certain, God made it clear that her family was to go... so, she had to be willing to trust God's plan over her concerns (over her "plan).
Bringing this back around to today's characteristic... a somewhat superfluous route, Sorry!...I don't feel that God calls us, in all cases, to open our literal homes to the homeless. (For some of us, this might be the case though and I don't question that!) This is quite unrealistic and, as my husband is eager to point out, can go against our obligation to protect our family. However, this doesn't get us off the hook, so to speak! Matthew 25:35 still speaks of taking stranger in... "In where?" becomes the obvious question: under our wing, into our church, help them find a shelter, a resource center... maybe. I think that depends on you... more importantly, what God places on your heart. From another perspective, look at it this way. Scripture says that we all have spiritual gifts. I feel that mine is encouragement, maybe even teaching. But, I most definitely don't possess them all! In the same vein, we can't be all things to all people. God points each of us on different paths, weaving a tapestry that, when done correctly (meaning through His sovereignty) will envelop the homeless, the sick, the widows, the orphans, etc. We each have a different part to play!
I know today's characteristic dealt with the correlation between befriending the poor and our "love for money"... BUT, God placed something a little different on my heart. And quite honestly, I've beaten the "love of money" issue like a dead horse on this blog! You know where I stand on that.
Spend some time asking God what your part is in the "tapestry." Showing God's love to the poor is essential, but there are countless ways to do it. Don't feel you need to follow someones else's path... maybe He wants you to blaze your own trail!