Saving One Life At a Time

From an inspiring Time article...

We make a living by what we get, Churchill said, but we make a life by what we give.
Maybe after all we've seen and heard and feared this year, maybe after all we've learned, something will be different this holiday season. Maybe instead of buying Aunt Margaret a sweater, we'll buy a goat in her name from Heifer International to give a hungry family milk every day. Five dollars buys a mosquito net to guard a sleeping child. We'll find a mission. Raise the money. Raise an army. Save a life.

Some would say it's 'un-Christian' to consider doing relief or humanitarian efforts without the main goal of clearly laying out the Gospel to those helped. Youre just dealing with temporal needs, thay'd say, and the eternal are all that matters. Why waste your time on earthly comfort for people without ensuring their salvation eternally?

What do you guys think? Is it valid to go work for or support the Peace Corps, Heifer International, the Red Cross, or the UN in their humanitarian efforts? Or should be just stick to Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, and Operation Mobilization, because they present the gospel with their aid?

Matt. 25:34-40

"Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"
"Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"
"The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Sometimes I feel I am very selfish, terribly so. While there is an AIDS epidemic in Africa and a war in Iraq and civil wars and earthquakes and hurricanes around the rest of the world, I am excited that my wedding planning is coming together and I got my homework done early. I don't give a thought to the day-to-day realities and tragedies of the rest of the world. I don't know what a practical answer to it all is, though. Ideas?


Spartacus (aka David Whittington) said...

Hmm... very interesting questions. I have spent a lot of time thinking about these issues too, so I'll share some of my thoughts.

Addressing your first point, I don't think it is our job to ensure the enternal security of others. Worldy comforts, though, we can actually help with a bit; eternal destinations are up to God, so help where you can and share about God with people who will listen.

On your second point, we are not responsible for all the suffering in the world, and I doubt all those who are suffering elsewhere in the world want you to be depressed all the time thinking about their suffering. At least, I definitely don't want people to feel that way when I suffer. Also, realize that it's more difficult than you think to help those people sometimes. Just dumping money into charities is not necessarily that helpful. Some charities may actually do more harm than good in the long run (give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish). Now, with the disclamers out of the way, I think it is really good to help where we can. Give what you are able; just make sure you give to the right things. Education and infrastructure create lasting change; handouts do not. A good charity will provide a combination of short-term and long-term help to people.

Whatever you do, though, do something. If you are troubled by the suffering in the world try to fix it. The worst feeling in the world is a feeling of helplessness. If these issues really bother you, figure out what you can do about them and do it. That doesn't mean you have to go to deapest Africa and minster to the sick all day. Just find something small and helpful to do and do it.

Shirley said...

Hi Joanna,
Some interesting thoughts. Here's my 2-cents worth. :)

“You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” – Amy Carmichael

As Christians, we are commanded to love God and our neighbour. As we grow more as God's children, I don't think it's possible to ignore the needs of people around us.

So with love as our guide, get behind charities, help the poor - really worship God as outlined in Isaiah 58.

But what's the greatest act of love? Christ dying for the lost.

So as I try to do my small bit for the suffering, as a Christian, I want to share the greatest act of love there is - reconciliation with God through Christ. Because at the end of the day, that is all we ultimately need. (Think of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4.)

So personally, I prefer to support organisations that share the Living Water and Bread of Life as well as meeting people's physical needs.

The caution given in the previous comment is a valid one - unfortunately, in the name of helping people, we can actually harm them. Read Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari for a fascinating insight into the decline of society in parts of Africa, largely thanks to well-meaning aid.

And nice to hear you mention OM - I work with them here in NZ! :)


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