Many people gravitate towards the idea of helping the poor within our community, nation and world. However, do we really understand who the poor are, and what poverty and suffering really is? Are we, as the church, taking the time to examine the internal issues, or only looking at the exterior surface?
The Topeka Rescue Mission Children’s Palace is a good example of this. The construction of the physical exterior is one of pristine elegance. The idea of helping homeless children sounds novel and romantic, until you look deeper and discover what really runs deep below the surface.
Inside you may find a child who is terrified of even the slightest touch, has a sore bottom or repetitively and aggressively sticks a finger up his nose or down his throat to bring himself harm, and escape the emotional pain that already swirls through his head – and that’s only the three-year-olds. It doesn’t include those younger and older with sometimes even more significant challenges, or the mom or dad who carry a lifetime of the same.
That reality helps one get over the romanticism fairly quickly.
But the only way we can bring lasting change is if we are willing to look beyond the exterior – beyond the romantic notion of charity – and go deeper into the systemic issues of why we have the issues we have, and what we can do to work together as a community to bring lasting change. It’s time to quit kicking the can of blaming each other for our problems, and instead go deeper into what can be done.
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they were given three main assignments, or commands, for their lives:
1) be fruitful and multiply
3) have dominion
From the very beginning, God’s intent was for them to multiply and bring forth offspring. He granted them dominion over all things – they were going to be the Top Dog in the Garden, so-to-speak.
But they were also to subdue which means to bring order to, or correct. They needed to subdue themselves by staying away from what they weren’t supposed to touch. As we all know, they failed and thus lost their place in the Garden.
When they got kicked out, I’m sure they had many different thoughts and wondered “could this really be happening?” I can only imagine the pain and shock from their first tick bite, sore throat, heartache or loss. They may have been tempted to go up to the cherubim guarding the Garden and proclaim with entitlement their “right” to enter.
But even so, God didn’t change their assignments. They now just had to figure out how to carry them out in a newly cursed world which was a result of their sin.
Now, let’s fast forward.
A couple hundred years ago, the Judeo-Christian message gave birth to many of the entities alive in our nation today representing government, education and community.
Back then, the church was essentially the center of most communities. It was the city gate where children went to school and city council tackled important issues.
It was a place of great influence – a great influence that is scarce in most communities today, and has been replaced with mocking, hypocrisy and a lack of significance from those of the outside looking in.
Sadly, we are not the home team anymore; we are the visitors. We’ve lost our position. And just like the first man and woman, we can’t demand that we are put back into position and we can’t blame someone else for the fall that has taken place.
What can we do? The obvious answer is to repent, pray and seek the Lord with all of our heart. But Matthew 5 also tells us that we are the salt of the earth, a lamp that is to shine bright in a dark world.
This speaks to our value. But what is the value that belongs to the Church today? Is it in comfortable buildings, great programs, a solid repetition or compelling history?
Or is it in who we are and what we can contribute to the dark world we are a part of today?
It’s time we join with Adam and Eve in accepting that the position we once held is no longer the position we still hold.
The reasons for this are irrelevant and pointing fingers of blame will do nothing more than contribute to the atmosphere of sin already prevalent.
What we must focus on instead is recognizing who and what God has called us to be – light – and walking that out. Not through entitlement or blame, but through recognizing what our value to society today really is.Where do we start? I believe we start by becoming like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who go into the world as captives and serve respectfully those who are in authority. And we bring with us value as we serve.
Daniel served faithfully but he wouldn’t compromise. He also didn’t fight. He walked by faith and humbly accepted the consequences which would result because he knew Who he served and the value he held. He trusted that all would be well but, even if it wasn’t, he was still going to follow the Lord. All of these men were willing to do what they could to both follow God and serve pagans, without fighting the pagans in the process.
In turn, leaders came to see God… literally.
If these men would have chosen to walk in defiance, entitlement and pride, would the outcome have been the same?
Why would the outcome be any different today? If God sent Jesus Christ for all of us, that means He’s not only for “us.” He’s also for “them,” and desires that all would come to know Him.
The starting point for the Church and every member within is to recognize our value. We must go to God and ask why we were created, what our purpose is within the world and what our value is to His Kingdom.
Many inside and outside of the Church walls have wrestled with those questions for years. Perhaps they go to church but that’s the extent of their belief system. Perhaps they try to fill void with possessions, activities and relationships.
But there’s so much more. And, if we are open to hearing, the Holy Spirit will reveal how He wants us to spend our lives here on this earth.
Let’s join together in becoming part of the solution by going deep and walking in who God has created us to be.
Lord, today, begin to show us our specific assignments and value in Your Kingdom. Not only the value we have through Christ as Your creation, but the value of our lives and how You want us to contribute to the healing of the world in which we presently live. Show us today where to start, how to plug in and how to truly be Your light. Help us to stop blaming and start humbly submitting… to You, and to those You have allowed to govern over us. Help us be part of the solution, not contributors to the problem. Help us to walk Your way, and be the light-bearers You’ve created us to be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
–By Barry Feaker with Jessica Hosman
Editor’s note: In his decades of service to Topeka Rescue Mission and the Topeka community in general, Barry Feaker has gone from providing shelter to the homeless to addressing the root causes of the ills that afflict our community. His outside-the-box thinking in the search for innovative solutions to homelessness, poverty, crime, human trafficking and other serious problems has garnered nationwide interest. This is the first in a series of articles addressing how we as individuals, the church and the community can provide value and help solve the issues faced by our society today.