By Pastor Ricardo Graham
While reading, I came across the following statement, which really caught my attention: “With almost impatient eagerness the angels wait for our co-operation; for man must be the channel to communicate with man. And when we give ourselves to Christ in wholehearted devotion, angels rejoice that they may speak through our voices to reveal God’s love” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 297).
Clearly, God seeks our cooperation to speak for Him to other humans. We are the channel He wants to use.
Here is another one: “We must be laborers together with God; for God will not complete his work without human agencies” (Ellen G. White, “Partakers of the Divine Nature,” The Review and Herald, March 1, 1887).
I think these two quotations speak to us about service—Christian service, to be more precise.
Jesus said it this way: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28, NKJV).
Jesus asked us to serve the poor and needy. To be sure, we cannot duplicate what He accomplished in His short, power-filled earthly sojourn. However, the principal of unselfish service as a servant or slave (the original Greek word in the New Testament is best translated as slave, although many translators have modified the impact by using the more palatable word servant) shines through the ages to our modern time.
Jesus was clear. The basis for Christianity is not reflected merely in quoting doctrine correctly, although that is important. We must talk the talk and walk the walk. The importance of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV) is not to be minimized. But knowing the truth and doing it are connected, like a door is connected to the jamb. There is to be a unifying consistency between what I espouse and what I demonstrate in my daily living.
Christianity must operate as Jesus intended. Here is another powerful statement, which refers to the parable of the sheep and the goats: “Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great judgment day. And He represented its decision as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 637).
I admit that I have not measured up to this yet. We all are a work in progress. Certainly, some may be quick to point to their work for the church or in various levels in the Adventist denomination. But this quote from Mrs. White specifies working for Jesus “in the person of the poor and the suffering.” The ones many of us try to ignore. The ones we drive or walk past on our way to…wherever.
Society doesn’t seem to honor these people, who are created in the image of God, who receive the ability to breathe from the hand of the Creator, but who, for whatever reason, are suffering deprivation. These are the ones who won’t be voting in this election year because they are homeless and have no address to use for the voter registration. They are not the focus of any polling organization, because they are regarded as not counting. And during this long period of pandemic-induced economic trauma, their ranks are swelling.
Oh yes, we remember the few dollars bills we may have dropped into a cup as we walked past the person huddled on the corner. Maybe we have even brought a few meals or given away some bottled water to someone in a park or on a sidewalk on a hot summer day.
A study that I read maybe 30 years ago indicated that 80% of church resources (money and work) was utilized within the congregation, with only 20% used to reach outside of the congregation or the church building. I wonder what the updated figures would show.
Measuring my own meager efforts in this regard, I have come up way too short. And any excuse that I may give doesn’t put me in an enviable category. I point no fingers at anyone; all my fingers are pointing at the man in the mirror staring back at me.
I remember meeting a former Golden Gate Academy classmate of my sister-in-law, Marcea Weir. This young lady, whom I will not name, had worked with Mother Teresa in India. Mother Teresa, who passed away in 1997, was a Catholic nun who devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor in the slums of Calcutta. Marcea’s friend told us that after her service among the poorest of the poor—I do not recall how long she worked there— she informed Mother Teresa that she was returning to the United States. Mother Teresa’s reply was, “If you love Jesus, you will stay.” Ouch.
Even in this COVID-19 pandemic, we can still serve. It may demand more creativity, but under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the only limitation is our imagination.
Truly, there are countless opportunities to serve, every day. Parents serve their children by providing for their needs and pointing them to Jesus in word and deed. We serve our communities and our neighbors in small and large ways: by being friendly, keeping our lawns and homes tidy and in good repair, and donating items to Adventist Community Service Centers or other agencies. We serve by attending church services, sending our children to our church schools, and participating on committees—which seem to proliferate without end. We serve by giving so that others around this globe may benefit.
While we may do all these things and more, the question remains: What have we done to help the poor and suffering? Even in this COVID-19 pandemic, we can still serve. It may demand more creativity, but under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the only limitation is our imagination.
Jesus told His disciples of old, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always” (Matthew 26:11, NKJV). As always, He spoke truth. And we also remind ourselves of what Jesus said in the parable of the sheep and goats: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:40, NKJV).
Jesus recognizes and receives our service to the poor and needy as service to Himself. This may mean that we need to develop a new way of “seeing” people, especially the poor and needy. Instead of seeing their unkempt external appearance, we need to develop “Jesus eyes” and look beyond the externals to see a brother or sister in our humanity—in fact, actually imagining that person as being Jesus.
The call to serve will never end. But the result of serving Christ in the personhood of the poor and needy receives these words from the Master: “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’” (Matthew 25:34, NIV).
We all want to be in the group that hears these words, don’t we?