A little over a month ago, I sat in my bleak living room with a close friend discussing issues surrounding life. My friend’s eyes began to swell with tears as he talked about his future; it would be merely days before he would get engaged. And as I sat there quietly, holding on dearly to every word, I listened to my friend’s heart break for people. You see, my friend has poured himself into a couple of his coworkers. He has not condemned their lifestyles or even attacked their displays of worldliness. My friend has shared something much simpler. My friend has shared love.
But as I sit here in a warm, comfortable place, drinking my usual cup of morning coffee, I can’t remember the last time I shed tears for such a cause. To be quite honest, I can’t even remember the last time I shed tears out of a love for people. And as I think about that statement, I am ashamed of my own selfishness. I get so caught up in feeling sorry for myself that I don’t realize the gifts I receive every day. The older I get, the more I want and the more I demand—all in the name of being, or at least feeling, established. But this whole thing isn’t even about me. It is about something much bigger, a picture my mind cannot grasp or behold.
It makes me literally sick to think about the comfort zone I call most of my life—the same people, the same job, the same experiences. I can’t help but think about the boxes we often put ourselves—and our beliefs—in. What would happen if we walked up to complete strangers and genuinely told these people they were beautiful? Would people think we were crazy if we let them know that somehow, through all the pain and suffering, things were going to work out? You see, I am convinced we don’t need more religion, more self-help propaganda or more megachurches. We don’t need newer sanctuaries, spiral staircases or bigger projection screens. What we need, as the entire human race, is hope.
As a Christian, my hope is indeed in the sacrifice, Jesus Christ. And I do believe Christianity cannot be associated with any of the other major religions, a common belief in today’s universalistic theme. But we as Christians have made such a mockery of compassion. It isn’t about “us versus them,” or about "Christian versus secular." Have we really forgotten that, regardless of our beliefs, we are all indeed people? We are a people who deal with the joys of life as well as the heartache. And these realities don’t pay bias to social class, race, religion or sexual orientation. These realities affect us all.
But why then have we developed these “safety zones” in which the world only laughs? One of my friend’s colleagues brought forth a valuable question I have not been able to shake. He asked my friend about the concept behind Christian bookstores. He went on to question if we, as Christians, really believed that either he or his friends would ever step foot in a place such as this. Over the course of the last month, I have found myself thinking about this continuously. And all I can mumble is "point taken."
Since moving to Minneapolis last October, my perspective on life and the concept of social injustice has changed greatly. I have witnessed firsthand the growing problem of urban sprawl as well as the heartache of living extremely close to people who call the streets home. And in many ways I envy these people. For though they have little, they seem to somehow find the good in an absence of possessions. But I cannot say the same. I can never seem to find satisfaction in the things I already own, which leaves me always wanting more. And it is only when I surround myself with people such as these that I am able to remain still and truly enjoy the beauty of my God.
This need for help follows us literally everywhere. It doesn’t take much effort to find a single mother struggling to provide for her children, or witness a man walking the streets in search of a meal. It doesn’t take a lengthy assessment to locate those individuals who are hurting, desiring nothing more than to find comfort and healing. But what it does take is love. And we must not become numb to these occurrences or tragedies. We cannot simply ignore the conditions that are only worsening in places such as Darfur, many areas of the Middle East and within blocks of our own residences.
Who knows, maybe I am being a little naïve. Or maybe I don’t want to ever stop believing that my hands, and my hard work, can actually bring about change and give hope to those who struggle with this precious gift we call life. Please, brothers and sisters, let us walk beside those individuals who are different from us, not run from them. Please, let us call upon our God for greater strength, and for the ability to see all people as Christ would see them, that a love far greater than all the pain and hurt may be revealed. And finally, let none of us, even for a moment, stop truly believing this world can, and will, one day be a better place.