One of the areas I'm seeing much differently has to do with the love of Christ. I've always believed all people are created by God and therefore loved by God. I've also believed that we are explicitly commanded to love those who are down and out and I've believed I loved them. I've shaken my head and nodded when I've heard sermons on loving the least of these and I could tell anyone how clothing the naked or feeding the hungry is loving Jesus. The problem was, I didn't do any of it. Not only was I not loving the unloveable well, I was not loving those I do love well. This has hit me with such force it has left me breathless. God has broken my heart for those cast off by society. He started this with orphans in Mexico. It broke further working with teenagers in Washington. Over our transition to missions it has broken for the ends of the earth, for those who don't know Jesus, for those suffering from physical and emotional pain and abuse, for orphans here and abroad. Daily almost, I am heartbroken with the overwhelming need for Jesus in this world. I spend time interceding for those who can't help themselves. Even when I've never met them.
But you know what? I don't love my neighbor right here at home. (for those who follow this blog, you know I do love our actual physical neighbors) I don't love my community though. I don't love those in my church. I judge them. I pridefully look down and lift my self above them. I don't even love those in my team as I also form judgements out of quick arrogance. What has left me gasping for air the last 24 hours though, is the realization I don't even love my family well. I am selfish. I quickly jump to resentment when my husband wants to sit down after working all day. I loathe the messes my children made even when I long to be sitting playing with them. I've been reading a blog by a young woman in her early 20's who has moved to Uganda and adopted 14 children. She writes about the extreme poverty and suffering and my heart is moved to such depths of compassion. I know what she means when she says the nearer she is to suffering the nearer she is to the heart of God so while it is not her desire to suffer from a human perspective, she does desire to be closer and closer to God and his heart. I get that. It resonates within me. I haven't lived in Uganda but I certainly have seen some extreme suffering in some of our travels and ministry. I've seen it and my heart has broken as I've sought to love them like Christ does, and cry out to God on their behalf. What has really struck me about this young woman is not the way she loves the "unloveable" in Africa. What has struck me, is how she loves her girls. How she loves her parents. Her brother. And I'm starting to see. Starting to hear the gentle grace-filled voice of the Holy Spirit teach me. Love my husband. Love him with Christ's unfailing, unconditional love. Love my children. Seek their well-being above my comfort and desires, like God does with us. I can love the least and long for the nations to know Christ. But if I don't love my literal neighbors, I'm no different in my sin than the priest and Levite who walked past the almost dead man in the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. It's not about loving the down and out to increase my standing with God. It's about opening my eyes to the heartbeat of God that loves each of his created people as his favorites. It's so easy for me to love the hurting elsewhere. It's a different perspective all together to love those all around me here in my own country. My own church. My own house.
God give me your heart for all people. Thank you for breaking my heart for the desperately hurting. Please break it for those all around who look like things are all together but inside long for Your love just as much as the poor, starving widow across the ocean. May I see all people as your favorites. Because we all are!
To read about Katie and her journey and ongoing ministry in Africa check out www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com She has a book out and Ty heard her speak at a conference last month and it will challenge you to the core!