Our church had an amazing guest speaker on Saturday evening, Dr. Tony Campolo. For those who don’t know him, he is the author of over 30 publishings, including the popular series “Red Letter Christians” which focuses on Jesus’ teachings (the red letters referring to copies of the Bible that put Jesus’ words in red ink.) He is an educator, a guest speaker, a sociologist and a pastor. He has been featured on many TV shows including as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour, and he was once the spiritual advisor to President Clinton. At 82 years old, this man knows his stuff! He spoke with humour and also a clear passion for the calling of Christians to love others as Jesus did and as he called us to do too. I was so blessed by and fortunate to have heard him speak, and to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my oldest son to him on Saturday, September 16th.
Dr. Campolo spoke with clarity and authority. Without needing notes, he was able to direct us to verses all over the Bible to support his message, and it was evident that the love of Christ is very strong in him. He challenged his listeners to ensure the Spirit of Christ was living in them, which is more than just being a believer of Christ. Even the devil believed in Christ, but there certainly isn’t any Spirit of Christ living in the devil.
In talking about the Spirit of Christ living in us, he mentioned the great joy we would feel. He drew from some amazing stories to demonstrate the immense warmth we receive when we freely allow God to inhabit us. He explained that we are here on earth as agents of Christ’s love, meaning it is our responsibility as representatives of Christ to spread the love that Jesus did when he walked this earth. He challenged us to see the faces of the poor and needy as the very face of Jesus, and he challenged us to actually think about what Jesus would do if he were in our place and to live so that we actually reflect Jesus himself.
I was very challenged by his message. I hope that people can see Jesus when they see me. But more importantly, I want to see Jesus in the faces of others and learn to be a better ambassador of God’s Kingdom. In Matthew Chapter 25 verses 34-40, Jesus describes a day of final judgement and he says the following,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
The first sentence is describing what will happen on the final day of judgement. People will be divided into two groups, and those on the right are who Jesus is speaking to, those who loved like Jesus asked. Jesus tells this group that they took care of him, though they don’t understand how as they never actually saw Jesus. His response is so crucial, when we take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, the impoverished, the socially challenged, the imprisoned, the strangers, the lost, the starving, the widowed, the ones suffering greatly, the condemned, the broken, then we are facing Jesus Christ himself. We are serving him by carrying for those who are in need.
So where is God for the starving and poor? He is in us. He is represented by us. We are his hands and feet on this earth. We are called to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love every single one of our neighbors.
This is OUR responsibility. This is our God-assigned task, and in my opinion, the very purpose of our life!
As Christians, we spend time debating scripture. Our various denominations have differences for things like infant baptism, women in office positions, homosexual topics, and alcohol to name a few. We debate these things, and stand united in our separate congregations on our opinions. Yet, none of this matters as much as doing what we are called to do, being who we are called to be. Dr Campolo made an interesting point, he stated that over 5000 times in the Bible there are verses about taking care of others, and yet only a handful of verses about homosexuality. So why are so many Christians debating the topic of homosexuality and not discussing feeding the poor? His thought was that its easy to discuss topics that don’t affect us personally, or allow us to talk about others, but it isn’t so easy to talk about things that convict us, or challenge us to be doing something better or differently. Ouch. I heard that loud and clear.
Since I heard about the more than 5000 times the Bible calls us to help, in my personal Bible reading I am amazed how often I have noticed this command and yet I didn’t pay as close attention to it before having it bopped over my noggin like a V8 commercial. Thank God that he opened my eyes even more.
Dr Campolo shared some amazing statistics that I also feel are note worthy – He said that 25 years ago, 45 000 children a day died from malnourishment, 1 out of every 6 people didn’t have access to clean water, and 80% of the planet was illiterate. Today, he said that its down to 17 000 children dying each day (ouch, still a very scary number), 1 out of 12 people now do not have access to clean water and the illiterate now number 20% of the world’s population! Wow! 25 years is really not a huge time period considering the difference of those statistics! Where can we be in 25 more years if we the Christians representing Christ actually live out our calling? Dr Campolo stated that much of this change was from Christians rising up and implementing literacy programs, creating food programs to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, and fundraising to dig wells all around the globe just as a few examples. What an amazing accomplishment to be thankful and proud of! But, because there is still starving children, and still people without access to clean water, and still people who cant read or write, we aren’t done yet.
So again, where is God for the starving and the poor? He’s represented by us here on earth. We are the ones responsible to help. What does that look like? While I think it depends on your passion and position. But certainly it requires action. Dr. Campolo was representing World Vision and strongly encouraged Child Sponsorship. Our own family sponsors a boy and girl through Compassion, again, I don’t think the difference matters (much like the denominational differences) I think it just matters that we accept the mission we’ve been given.
There are a million ways to support the needy around each of us, it would take me an entire week to even be able to research the ways in my own community. Whatever your passion, whatever your church, whatever your hope just get out there and take action as often as you can. Once in a while is not enough! We truly don’t recognize how good we have it in a first world country – even our poor aren’t a reflection of the poor in 3rd world countries. But both groups need support, regardless. People need support. And its our job to support them. And when we need support, we should rest assured knowing that there will be people to support us too.
There’s a beautiful song that I feel like captures what I’m trying to communicate as well, Matthew West’s Do Something. I urge you to absorb the words and message of this song. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8
Lastly, I will leave you with a verse that I read in my personal devotional time this morning that also really spoke to me, reminding me that even the little things we do add up, and every single thing matters. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” !!!