Excerpt from Amazing Faith by Wilfredo De Jesús
Compassion is good, right, and noble. We have to realize, though, that caring for people always has a price tag. Stopping to mend broken hearts and shattered lives requires an investment of time and other re- sources. Many individuals and churches don’t want to pour themselves into people who are “unclean” and take so long to see substantial progress, even when they respond to the gospel. People today want instant success, and ministries of compassion rarely meet this standard.
There’s another risk when we step into the lives of the down-and- out: potential damage to our reputations. I’ve been criticized by leaders of some churches who believed we’d “lost our calling” by giving so much attention to prostitutes, addicts, single moms, and other disenfranchised people.
The Christian faith isn’t about getting; it’s about giving. Far too many Christians don’t understand this basic principle of spiritual life, so they have empty, impoverished hearts. Jesus told His disciples (including us),
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
We gain by giving, we rise by bowing to serve, and we’re filled by pouring ourselves out to God and others. This isn’t a new concept. The paradox has been central to the faith since time began, and we have a supreme example. Saint Augustine captured the paradoxical wonder of Christ when he wrote:
“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on his journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”
Christians talk about “becoming like Christ.” Augustine captured what the phrase really means. True transformation happens when powerful people become humble and timid people become bold.
It’s not enough to have a hit-and-run message of grace to people who are deeply hurt and have lost hope. We need staying power. We have to hang in there with a prodigal child, a friend who is an addict, someone who is chronically sick, or anyone else who requires extra grace.
Wilfredo De Jesús is one of the 2014 Faculty for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the Senior Pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois and was recognized as TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2013. Learn more about Wilfredo HERE.