*Editorial Note: As followers of Christ, we are called to bring hope and healing to those who hurt in a fallen and broken world full of pain and poverty, sickness and sadness. Join us for a timely discussion with contributors from the recently released book, The Least of These, where a collection of leading Christian thinkers and practitioners explore our responsibility to alleviate human suffering this side of eternity, and where we can start to practice a faith without margins.
Join us for “Restoring Dignity: Our Responsibility to the Least of These,” Missio’s latest webinar discussion, taking place on Thursday, May 18th, at 3pm ET. Register here.
Nearly every day, I take my dog on a walk around my neighborhood in my adopted city of Denver. In just a two-mile loop, I see so many needs. There’s a man in a wheelchair struggling to cross the street before the traffic lights change. There is a single mother among a group of grocery-store coworkers, picketing for a better wage in frigid temperatures outside the store. There are the diverse riders of the public transportation system, waiting at the bus stops on several corners along my route. I walk past a homeless family huddled under the minimal shelter of the side entry to a local church, the entirety of their possessions contained in a shopping cart, the young children trying to stay warm in ragged sleeping bags. There are several neighbors with mental illness, their porches and yards piled high with clutter. And there are refugee families, eking out a living with government assistance and praying their kids have a chance for something better.
Just two miles. So many different people. So many needs. So many on the margins. So many dividing lines. Honestly, it’s often overwhelming. I know that in a fallen and broken world, there will always be pain and poverty, sickness and sadness. Yet I also know that as a follower of Christ, I’m called to bring hope and healing to those who hurt, and there ought not be margins in the Kingdom of God. What, therefore, is my — our — responsibility to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing this side of eternity? With so many needs everywhere we look, where do we start? I know that in a fallen and broken world, there will always be pain and poverty, sickness and sadness. Yet I also know that as a follower of Christ, I’m called to bring hope and healing to those who hurt. (1/2) Click To Tweet There ought not be margins in the Kingdom of God. What, therefore, is my — our — responsibility to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing this side of eternity? With so many needs everywhere we look, where do we start? (2/2) Click To Tweet
I had the honor of serving as general editor of The Least of These: Practicing a Faith Without Margins, the third book in the Kingdom Conversations series by NavPress in partnership with Missio Alliance. As I worked on this project, communicated with the contributors and curated the chapters, I had the opportunity (or more accurately, the challenge) to sit with this topic and these questions for months – and the result was that this was the most personally convicting project I’ve worked on. Here is what I’ve learned and how I am trying to grow in practicing a faith without margins:
- I have a propensity to shield myself from the pain and suffering in the world. I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t like discomfort. Who does, really? But I’ve been deeply convicted over my very human yet very sinful predisposition to avoid hard things. I’m not proud of this, and I am trying to lean into opportunities for learning and growth.
- The most important first step is to open my eyes. It has literally been life-changing for me to simply pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal the world to me as God sees it. Not surprisingly, that prayer has been answered. I walk my neighborhood differently. Instead of just focusing on my tasks or on getting to my destinations, I now see the people all along the way, and I see them differently: the grocery-store cashiers, the restaurant servers, the other drivers on the road, the neighbors out for a walk. Again, I have had to confess and repent of my self-centeredness and of a pace of life that doesn’t allow space to see.
- When my eyes are opened, the needs and opportunities can truly feel overwhelming. What, really, can one person do? So I’m trying to focus on the simple opportunities right in front of me. Noticing people. Saying hello. Sitting with my feelings of inadequacy. Listening. Learning. Considering how to join in solidarity with instead of fixing for. I confess (again) that these are unfamiliar behaviors and postures for me. God, forgive me for my decades — decades! — of ignorance and ambivalence. I have a propensity to shield myself from the pain and suffering in the world. I’ve been deeply convicted over my very human yet very sinful predisposition to avoid hard things. I am trying to lean into opportunities for growth. Click To Tweet
- My husband and I are having regular, intentional conversations about what we can do. Our first step in this area was to learn more about our neighborhood, our community, and our city so that we can be active participants in their well-being. We have realized that in our community, our local public schools are where many of the greatest needs converge: children and families experiencing all sorts of trauma: broken homes, financial instability, food insecurity, physical and emotional abuse, and chronic fear — of bullying, of deportation, of eviction, of a host of other concerns. We’re empty nesters and no longer have an automatic “in” to the schools now that our kids are grown, so we’re still figuring out the best ways to engage, communicate, and support.
- The Spirit is regularly reminding me that God wants who I am — a transformation of heart and mind — as much so, or more than, what I can do. Honestly, some days I’d rather just send a donation. I’d rather talk about issues from a distance or as concepts rather than engage them concretely and up-close. This heart work is hard work.
I ask that you pray for me on this journey. I also encourage you to join me. Will you read The Least of These and allow yourself to be challenged and shaped by the thought-provoking chapters in this book, as they have done for me? Your life might change as well. It has been life-changing for me to pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal the world to me as God sees it. Not surprisingly, that prayer has been answered. Instead of focusing on my tasks, I now see people all along the way. Click To Tweet
*Editorial Note: Order The Least of These and other books in the Kingdom Conversations series here.
Dr. Angie Ward is the general editor of the Kingdom Conversations series, a collaboration between NavPress and Missio Alliance. Angie is a leadership author and teacher with nearly thirty years of experience in church, parachurch, and Christian higher education ministry. She currently serves as the Director of the Doctor of Ministry program and Associate Professor of Leadership and Ministry at Denver Seminary.