Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Be strong and courageous

Before Christmas, my school fellowship put together a set of care packages for the needy. They consisted of a Tupperware box, dental floss, a granola bar, socks, and one-size-fits-all gloves. We were supposed to hand them out one weekend, but for one reason or another, the plans did not go through. It was then planned to hand out the boxes over lunch this afternoon during our fellowship meeting - a meeting that I did not make it to. Shortly after lunch, I ran into a couple of the fellowship leaders in the hallway and asked them how the care package delivery went (I noticed they were still holding a few bags of them). They told me that the packages had not actually been delivered and that people were going to deliver them on the way home. Then they asked me if I wanted some.

I was a bit concerned, fearful even. It was one thing to deliver care packages as a group, hiding out at the back and smiling. It was an entirely different matter to deliver them one on one.

"Um..." I hesitated.

"Well, do you ever run into people that ask you for money on the street?" a leader prompted.

"Yes... sometimes," I replied.

"Just give them one of these," they said.

Through a nervous grin I responded, "I don't know if I can handle this responsibility..."

"Here, just take one then," the leader smiled, handing me a package.

I generally tend to think of my gifts as being intellectual, and I enjoy thoughtful discussions about my beliefs with believers and nonbelievers alike. Yet, to approach a needy stranger - it really is a truly Christian act, but one that I found truly frightening.

On my way home, in the subway station, I ran into a homeless person sitting on the ground, hands outstretched. I walked by, then paused and turned back. For a moment, I locked up, and deferred to my natural instinct: I reached into my pocket to fish for coins. I stopped, leaned over, and said, "Actually, my school prepared these care packages with like a scarf and gloves in it... would you like one?"

"Suuuuuure...!" was the woman's enthusiastic reply.

I opened my bag and found the care package, delivering it to her hands. She eyed it with what seemed may have been some disappointment, but then turned back to me with a slight smile, "Thank you."

Locked in nervousness, I thought to myself, If I was fishing in my pocket for coins before... maybe I should better still give her something. So I reached into my pocket, and took out a dollar coin, placing it carefully into her hand. She gave the coin a peculiar look, then thanked me again. I nodded and made some sound of acknowledgement before walking off and resuming my afternoon commute.

Thoughts raced through my head. Should I have stopped and talked longer? What about the coin... did giving the coin cheapen the gift of the care package? Did I offend her? Oh boy, did I say scarf and gloves... it's socks and gloves... what if she is really disappointed by the package because I misinformed her?

Somehow, even though I had performed an act of kindness, I felt like I had performed it with such brevity and awkwardness that I had somehow done the lady a disservice. I pictured all my peers and their warm outreaching attitudes. Still, the lady had accepted, and had appreciated the gift. That was already more positive than some of the stories I had heard about homeless persons accepting gifts. The entire incident had left me with more than a little bit of concern over the preparedness of my heart and body to act as God's hands and feet.


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."


31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God has commanded us to be bold. He has told us not to be afraid. He is with us; he is enabling us. Yet it is such a challenge to step out there and be courageous for God. But this is a command. Trusting in God is a command, and being willing to step beyond our comfort in order to serve God (not merely making ourselves uncomfortable for discomfort's sake) is a matter of obedience.

1 JOHN 3 (NLT)

17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.


"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' 45Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

God demands that we love one another, and care for the needy. Our Lord himself identifies with the poor and judges actions accordingly. It can be difficult to know how to help - offering a coin, a listening ear, volunteering... And it is hard to act. But can fear really be an excuse?

This is the question with which I am challenged today.

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