I’ve been reading the gospels, to be honest, they are challenging.
For a Christian the number one pursuit in this life should be to become like Christ. Thing is, as far as we know, Jesus helped most of the people who’s pain He was aware of. Is this possible for the Christian of today to accomplish?
Jesus was born in a world very different from ours. An example of this is the circle of influence and awareness the average person had. In His day, the average person travelled by foot mostly and for long trips by horse or donkey. Therefore most people only knew the people in their village and farmers around it. Messages between different settlements were sent by messengers that usually took a while to be delivered due to the limited speed of travel. Today the opposite is true, this blog is a perfect example; a young average girl can send a message immediately to anyone in most parts of the world, no even more, to almost everyone on this globe at the same time. A practical example of the impact of this difference between the two era’s is that in Jesus’ time if something happened in China, the people of Africa would probably never know about it, whereas today thanks to the satellite communication, average me sitting at the bottom of Africa knows about the plight of the people in Syria, I know of it as it happens, in detail, camera footage taking me there, making it real to me, tugging at my heart.
The problem with this ‘open’ and accessible world is that I know of everyone’s joy and progress, but also of their plight and pain, whereas in Jesus’ days you were only aware of the circumstances of those in your direct surroundings. This meant that the amount of people in your life, your circle of awareness matched your capacity for influence. Let me expand; the average person would know all the widows in their town and as a community they would be able to care for them, the people in the community would also for the most part act as a community since their lives are intertwined and dependant on each other. In contrast, today we have the resources to know about the millions of widows around the globe, yet we live in our own comfy silo’s due to the disappearance of interdependence within a community, Jack the butcher, does not need his neighbour, John the farmer’s produce because he orders his veggies online and has it delivered to his door, no need for interaction, no sharing of the burden which is so much bigger now because Jack follows international news on his phone with which he phoned his sick friend from Russia he met online.
Imagine the scene where Jesus feeds the 5000 after teaching the whole day. If this scene were to play off in today’s world, His sermon would be streamed live to a global audience. But Jesus would only feed the 200 000 people in the actual audience in front of Him. (author’s note: I know Jesus would be able to make a loaf and fish miraculously appear in front of each person on his couch watching the sermon, but I’m trying to make a point, so let us stick to what is practically possible and not miraculous). Do you see the mismatch in circle of awareness vs the circle of influence? This mismatch paralyzes a lot of people who feel overwhelmed by the calamity of millions instead of just about 50. Jack’s heart is burning for the troubled people around the globe but doesn’t do anything because he doesn’t know where to start.
We are burdened with the troubles of this world but we only have enough money, time and emotional capacity to care for those who need it in our ‘community’. We don’t even have the capacity to look after every beggar see in our everyday travels, never mind the millions of starving people in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The answer to my original question, can I help every person who’s difficulties I am aware of? No, my arms are too short. But I can and must help those I can reach. Yes I know today we can reach almost everyone due to planes, trains and much faster boats and some are called to go help those far away from home, we call them missionaries, I am now referring to the everyday Christian who holds down a job or raises their children. I can join the community of my church and join in on their projects to uplift the community around them. If my church can’t help me, I can volunteer at a local charity. I can also help those who are in my life, my friend who struggles to make ends meat each month, my gran who is battling cancer, my colleague who’s going through a divorce. The beggar picking his sores outside my favourite grocer. I can focus on those who I can build a relationship with.
The reason for expending your charity to those you frequently see is that now your circle of influence matches your capacity to influence, not only financially etc. but also emotionally. The people on your prayer list are the one’s you can also reach out to . Andrew Murray links prayer for someone to performing deeds to help that same person and views them as one. Action without prayer or prayer without action has little power. You are now able to share the gospel with your gran, because she has seen Christ in you and is willing to listen to you. So the “teachings of Christ” accompanies and matches the works of Jesus. Finally we reach our goal, to be like Christ.
God’s grace is sufficient to match the length of my arms and in that I should find rest.