The good news: A newborn baby was pulled from a storm drain in South Africa on Monday. Emergency responders heard a baby crying from deep inside the concrete structure. After working four hours to dig up the area and chisel into the drain, they were able to rescue the baby.
The bad news: according to the Associated Press, paramedics say “it is unclear why the baby was ‘dumped’ and . . . police are investigating.”
The good news: Smithsonian Magazine reports that “Southern California will soon see another booming superbloom.” If rains continue, the desert landscape will come alive with blossoming wild poppies, verbena, lilies, primroses, prickly pear, and dozens of other species of ephemeral native spring wildflowers. Rare species that only bloom every few years or decades may appear.
The bad news: the “superbloom” will result from recent, massive wildfires that created the heat and smoke necessary for the flowers to germinate.
The good news: tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a wonderful day of celebration with those we love.
The bad news: tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a difficult day of grief for those who have lost someone they love.
A day I’ll never forget
This week, we’ve been discussing the painful issue of innocent suffering. From clergy abuse scandals to natural disasters and diseases, such suffering makes the news every day. Judging by the response of our readers, this is an issue that resonates deeply with us all.
On Monday, we prayed for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Yesterday, we focused on ways God can redeem our suffering as we trust him in hard places.
Today, I’d like us to consider one of the most significant yet overlooked ways our Lord helps those who hurt.
When my father died ten days before Christmas during my senior year of college, a friend from school drove across town the next day and spent the day with me. He didn’t offer advice or theological wisdom. He was just there. I’ll never forget his presence.
When my brother and I first came back to school after Dad’s funeral, a friend who had lost her father and older sister put her arms around us and said, “Time helps. It doesn’t heal, but it helps.” I’ll never forget her compassion.
“You are the body of Christ”
Scripture says of Jesus’ followers, “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). God’s word means this statement, not figuratively or metaphorically, but literally. The people of God are the visible and physical manifestation of Jesus’ continued earthly ministry. We are his hands and feet, his presence in our fallen world.
This is why we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), “to do good and to share what you have” (Hebrews 13:16), and to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
As we incarnate the body of Jesus by serving those who hurt, we serve Jesus. He is present in their pain, their need, their loneliness and despair. His promise is clear: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
However, two temptations make it difficult for us to be the hands of Jesus to a hurting world.
One: Divorcing faith from life
Craig Denison: “We’ve separated Christianity from the world. We’ve separated Sunday from Monday, the sacred and secular. Jesus lived in line with God’s love every minute he was here. He broke the rules in healing on the Sabbath. He ministered almost completely outside of the walls of the synagogue. He brought the good news of God’s grace to all who would believe everywhere he went.
“His life was in no way segregated. Jesus’ turning the water into wine at a party was just as holy and spiritual as his reading of Isaiah in the temple, proclaiming his fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the Messiah. His love was put into perfect action through every word, miracle, step, glance, and prayer.”
Our culture measures spirituality by what we do on Sunday. God measures what we do on Sunday by what we do on Monday. Which is true for you?
Two: Trying to serve in our strength rather than God’s power
Henri Nouwen: “When we know that God loves us deeply and will always go on loving us, whoever we are and whatever we do, it becomes possible to expect no more of our fellow men and women than they are able to give, to forgive them generously when they have offended us, and always to respond to their hostility with love. By doing so we make visible a new way of being human and a new way of responding to our world’s problems.”
Compassion without the Spirit is a prescription for burnout. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), sharing what we have received. When last did Jesus’ love change your life? When last did it change someone else through you?
“I see Jesus in every human being.”
Mother Teresa is one of the most venerated people in the world.
Her native country of Albania named their international airport for her and celebrates her life every year on October 19. Universities, churches, cathedrals, roads, and a railroad have been named for her.
The United Nations General Assembly designated September 5, the date of her death, as the International Day of Charity. The order she founded, “Missionaries of Charity,” today includes more than five thousand sisters serving in 120 countries.
What explains her remarkable life and ministry?
For her, the answer was simple: “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: February 13, 2019
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