Written by Brittany McFadden
What is our relationship to the vulnerable? This question started off an evening of learning and discussion led by Anna Ho, founder of Reconciled World, focusing on how loving our neighbor moves us toward the vulnerable, marginalized, divided and forgotten.
Why is it we are always returning to this question of how do we love our neighbor? We do so because of its importance to being a faithful people. “Left to ourselves”, remarked Anna, “we gravitate toward sameness.” Contrarily, the Kingdom transforms the way we move toward the vulnerable and marginalized to “pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted” (Isaiah 5:10); to “seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17); to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27); and “to associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16). Thus, life in the kingdom of God requires an intentional rehearsal of our calling as God’s people so that we might display to the ends of the earth and throughout the entire expanse of creation His good intention for the world made evident by a faithful people embodying that good news.
As we consider what it would look like to love the vulnerable and marginalized among us, we are exhorted to remember that we are part of one body with believers everywhere; we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Consider your community for a moment. Pray that the Spirit would make you sensitive to see the needs and brokenness there. Now what if you could honestly say that those problems no longer existed? That there were no more poor people in your community, for example?
Anna Ho emphasized that it begins with a praying heart. In Southeast Asia a woman, orphaned as a child in a village so impoverished that many of us cannot even fathom, prayed for God to help her people. In an environment unfriendly to Christianity her small church determined to engage in intentional acts of love toward their community a few times a year – helping clear fields, cleaning ditches. Smaller projects led to large ones and with supportive training through Reconciled World, this group began to nurture dreams of what their community could become. This woman now reports that there is no one left in need within the 40 villages around her church; everyone is stable. Members of the church in this area now go further and further out to find more villages to serve. An orphan prayed and God worked through the faithful local church to responded in marvelous and faithful ways. (Read more of this story here)
Thus we must ask ourselves how Jesus’ authority shapes the way we move toward the vulnerable. Anna highlighted 6 key truths for engaging among the vulnerable:
- The local church is capable. Jesus calls each local church to embody the ways of the kingdom yet sometimes the church is unaware of its ability and calling. Thus as we engage, it is our aim to see each local church brought to fulness in her identity and calling. Anna emphasized that when an individual helps a community, the person is praised. When an organization helps, people remark what a great organization. But when the church faithfully engages, people praise God and He receives the glory. Quoting a pastor in India Anna remarked “People flock toward love personified.”
- God is powerful and active. This requires a posture that does not assume we are the answer. It challenges us to be a people who pray and fast and seek the Lord that we might join God in what he is doing and not be too quick to offer solutions. True movement out of poverty (or other expressions of brokenness) involves more than quick fixes and monetary resources. True transformation is a work of the Spirit of God bringing healing and restoration to all of life.
- Truth is transformative. Every idea has consequences and each culture holds to ideas that are true and ideas that are not. Lies can often be identified by our excuses and reasons for why we do something or how we explain a situation. Lies can be shown in how people are treated, particularly the vulnerable. Beliefs are impacted more through experience more than by simply hearing the truth. When God’s people live faithful lives, their lives tell another story against the lies of culture and their communities experience the truth of the good news of the Kingdom.
- God’s concern is for all areas of life. The good news isn’t just that Jesus forgives us, although that’s a wonderful part of the gospel. It’s also good news that God cares about nutritious crops, clean water, healthy bodies, justice, and nature. His concern is about wholistic transformation and obedience in every area of life.
- Resources are everywhere. These include spiritual, relational, familial, knowledge-based and skill-based resources. It is a lie to say that someone is too poor to contribute. As part of a privileged culture we can easily focus on what we think is lacking, failing to see what God has already given the local church to cultivate and use for his glory. Affirming the gifts and resources of the local church equips her to be faithful to her God-ordained role in his mission.
- The Kingdom INCLUDES the vulnerable. What seems upside down to the cultures of the world is “right-side up” in the kingdom, remarked Anna. Our heart for the marginalized and vulnerable comes from Jesus who sought out the very ones society disregarded and used them to accomplish his glorious intentions. Anna concluded, “We aren’t Jesus. We experience Jesus. Jesus is coming among the broken.”
As participants discussed these core truths and applied them to particular areas of ministry in which they are engaged they identified specific ways the Kingdom of God shapes engagement among the vulnerable in our communities, cities and the world:
- Begin with and continue in prayer. In particular, pray for sensitivity that you may see where God is at work and join him is what he is doing.
- Constantly ask “How do I love my neighbor?”
- Ask God how you might steward your vocation to love the vulnerable, marginalized, divided and forgotten.
- Come with a humble heart
- Make yourself vulnerable
- Posture yourself to learn.
Reconciled World is a global organization equipping churches to transform their communities through truth-based training and programs. For more information about RW, their core principles, how they work with local churches and to read the amazing stories of what God is doing in communities all over the globe visit reconciledworld.org. Resources for equipping local churches can be found at tctprogram.org.