“There is a dream that lives in the heart of every man or woman who believes in the goodness and greatness of God. It is a dream of a world left better for our having been here — a world transformed by the love, power, and truth of our great God.”
-Russ Ewell, When God Isn’t Attractive
God wants each of us to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives around us. He puts us in the careers, relationships, and neighborhoods we are in not just for our own benefit, but so that we can make an impact on the people around us. He gives us the strengths we have so that we can make others strong. He gives us voices so we can speak for those who have none.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
A relationship with God that is real and dynamic is one that thinks of and cares for others. If we are not actively looking for ways to love others and meet needs that have yet to be met, we will never fully understand what it means to be close to God. This “active love” that God calls us to have can be achieved by looking, understanding, and acting. God actively loves us in these three ways, showing us how to do the same with others.
Whenever crowds came to Him, He had compassion for them because they were so deeply distraught, malaised, and heart-broken. They seemed to Him like lost sheep without a shepherd. Jesus understood what an awesome task was before Him, so He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into His harvest field.”
As this scripture says, Jesus was not so preoccupied with his busy life that he was unable to notice the needs of the people around him. Rather than keep his head down, compete, and try to get ahead, he took the time to look at the crowds and have compassion. We are capable of doing the same thing. No matter the schedule, family, or circumstance, we are all capable of taking a moment to look and see the needs around us. Though we may become overwhelmed by the awesome and large task before us, we do not have to feel alone in addressing needs. Just as Jesus says, the task at hand becomes a little less overwhelming when we work together to help others.
O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again. Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking.
God makes an effort to get to know us. It is not enough for him when we clock in by going to church or telling him when we mess up. He wants to explore us, to know even the smallest details of us. He wants to understand us so that he can love us. This is how we can love others. After looking for the need, we must do what we can to understand them. To understand why people do what they do, what makes them sad, angry, or happy. Those who are ostracized among us are often the most misunderstood, and if we want to love them we must take the necessary steps to understand them.
With this month being Autism Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to make the effort to understand those who so often go overlooked and misunderstood. With 1 in 68 kids on the Autism Spectrum as of 2014, they are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. However, it is not enough to see and recognize kids with special needs. We must do what we can to understand them. Sesame Street is seeking to do just that. The video below introduces a new character, Julia, to the Sesame Street world. Julia has autism, and the other characters in the show do everything they can to understand and include her. The video does an incredible job explaining Julia’s needs, interests, and strengths. They emphasize that though Julia is different, it is these very differences that make her a great friend, and that all of us are unique in our own way.
After introducing this new character, Sesame Street recently installed the very first autism-certified theme park. With a specially trained staff, quiet areas to take a break, noise-canceling headphones, and more, Sesame Street clearly is doing its part in not only identifying the needs of kids with autism but doing what they can to understand them. We can exert the same time and effort to get to know the people around us.
This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
After looking for needs and then working to understand them, we must then decide to act. God doesn’t expect us to go change the world in the next five minutes, but rather do our part in meeting needs, no matter how small. It’s saying hello to the coworker that looks down or eating lunch with the kid who sits by himself. It’s calling the family member who is otherwise alone or checking in on a friend when they are going through a hard time. It is these small acts put together that make the largest difference.
Who in your life needs you to notice and understand them? What can you do today to take action to love them?
To learn more about how to have a love that is active, read chapter 5 of Russ Ewell’s book, When God Isn’t Attractive, “How We Can Change the World.”