By John D. Barry, Crosswalk.com
Jesus is all about loving others with everything you have, in every moment, in proclamation of the eternal life He offers. He said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22).
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:13).
I am constantly learning from Jesus what it means to fully love others and give of myself. I try to pray each day that He will teach me to better live His sayings, which speak to our beliefs and the empathy that should accompany them.
Giving Even When You Don’t Have Much
Giving is something we all must practice. It is one of the ways Jesus overcomes the spiritual poverty of our hearts—and alleviates the physical poverty of others in the process. And this idea is even more profound when practiced by the impoverished.
Regarding an impoverished widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
Hope is about Believing What is Yet to Be
For Jesus—like the author of Hebrews—hope is about believing in what is yet to be (Hebrews 11:1). And belief is about action. We are called to follow Jesus with our entire being. And the ramifications of doing so are incredible.
Right at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we see the power of Jesus’ calling upon our lives:
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).
Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow Him—they completely dedicated themselves to Him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them.
To a man with a recently lost loved one, Jesus said:
“‘Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).
For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears the response:
“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).
There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom, as Jesus’ earliest disciples did.
Jesus has called us to join him in His work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.
God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. Jesus asks us to exchange the currencies of this world for the currency of love—to live self-sacrificially in his economy of love. And when we make this decision, it allows for us to have empathy like never before.
Jesus and Empathy
For those of us who have much, it is difficult to understand the lives of those who have little. We have trouble fully comprehending what life is like on the other side of the poverty line. But we’re closer to understanding than we might think.
Jesus is the person who brings us closer: He is the source of our empathy. My clue for this comes from passages like these:
“As they were going along the road, someone said to [Jesus], ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (Luke 9:57–58).
Jesus lived like the impoverished who we wish to empower: He had nowhere to lay His head. There is sadness in this statement, but there is also hope. It makes me sad for Jesus, but in my empathy for Christ, I am learning to have even more empathy for those who are hurting. I am growing closer to God’s heart as I think upon Jesus’ plight.
And this is much of what believing in Jesus is all about: We have an opportunity to recognize how God Himself experienced the full spectrum of suffering, as Jesus, and then do as Christ did: Give of ourselves freely for the betterment of others.