Feeling hurt is a way to become closer to the heart of God. But feeling bad for others and their circumstances is not a good indicator of our relationship with God.
After reading through my last post, I realized that I might have created some misconceptions about feeling hurt for others. I talked about how I see a lot of kids as we drive in this country and it breaks my heart when they aren’t in school or aren’t well cared for. That feeling of sadness I have is NOT a good measure of my faith in God. Frankly, its a sign of lukewarmness because it is simply not enough.
Because God does not just feel hurt for His children, but He legitimately desires justice for His children. To be closer to the heart of God, I must desire that justice as well. And, even more so, I must desire to join God in creating justice in the world for His people.
I’ve been doing some rereading in a wonderful book about alleviating poverty entitled When Helping Hurts. The whole premise of the book is to discuss the best way to go about alleviating poverty in the world around us without hurting them or ourselves. In the book, the authors discuss Israel and the reasons God gives for sending them into captivity. This verse from Isaiah strikes me in the gut everytime:
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! ‘The multitude of your sacrifices, what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the bloods of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths, Convocations-I cannot bear your evil assemblies…Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.'”
-Isaiah 1:10-13, 16b-17, as cited on page 38 of When Helping Hurts.
I am going to attempt to rewrite this verse as we might read it today:
Listen to me, you evil people without morals. Listen to what I say. ‘The songs you sing at the top of your lungs in church, what are they to me?’ Says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough songs that have been sung about me filled with eloquent words and beautiful harmonies. But I take no pleasure in listening to you sing. Who has asked you to come before me with these things? It was not me. Your hearts are wrong, your song is meaningless. I cannot bear to watch you get together and attempt to praise my name when you refuse to do what is right. What is right? Seek justice. Encourage and lift up those who are struggling financially, spiritually, physically, or emotionally. Defend the children who have no homes, no family and no food. Reach out to them! Protect them! Show them my love! Be kind to the widow and help her! Find the poor and powerless and give them a voice!’
One of the greatest commands God ever gave His people was to care for the poor and hurting among them. It was written into His law; the Year of Jubilee was created for people such as this. But the Israelites failed to take care of the poor among them.
Are we failing?
The very definition of being a lukewarm Christian is not buying into God’s redemptive plan for the world and seeking to be apart of it. God is at work everywhere, and He asks us and lets us actively participate in bring healing to the brokenness in the world. He asks us to hurt for those who are living as less than what God wants them to be, but He also asks us to participate in the deliverance of justice for the oppressed.
It is extremely important to realize that we are also living as less than what God wants us to be, even if our problems don’t manifest themselves in material poverty. We cannot fix anything ourselves.
But we can do something. By the grace and mercy of God, we can do something.
So do it. Hurt for others, have mercy, and pray for them. But also ask God to show you ways that you can bring about justice. Because God doesn’t just feel bad for His children.
He works to bring them justice.