As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, like many others, I often contemplate how God most desires to use my life and witness for his glory. He clearly calls me to love him (Deut 6:5), to love my neighbors (Matt 22:39), and to make disciples (Matt 28:19). In loving our neighbors, the faith walks of followers of Jesus includes both sharing the gospel, and also actions of advocating justice for the widows, orphans and oppressed, and also caring for those affected by injustice.
So what is the call to justice and servanthood to the vulnerable among us, particularly those in under-resourced inner-city neighborhoods? Jesus calls us to serve them as himself (Matt 25:40). His heart pours out to those in need (Luke 6:20-21). He commands care for them (Mark 10:21-22). And he warns judgment for those who disregard them (Matt 25:41-46). As we know from the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, when Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, he makes clear “our neighbor” is someone who is in need. Someone who is suffering. Someone who may look different from us or have a different background and culture.
At Desire Street, we serve leaders who serve the most vulnerable that suffer in some of America’s most under-resourced neighborhoods across the Southern United States. Many Americans have their hearts tugged by the challenges and lack of opportunities that many children and adults face in these neighborhoods. Children born into these zip codes have no choice in the matter, and those growing up there face significant struggles and lack of opportunities. The causes of poverty and brokenness in under-resourced neighborhoods are complex, and not easily solved. Yet, our humble honor at Desire Street is to walk ministry and life alongside heroes that live and serve in these neighborhoods, for the specific call by Jesus to love their neighbors. What if these ministry leaders, working along with their neighbors, not only beat the odds, but change the odds in their communities through revitalization based on both spiritual and community development? By linking arms with their neighbors, together they reflect the inherent dignity of all – created in the image of God – and work together toward transformation.
“Faith seeking understanding” inevitably leads to differences of opinion and biblical interpretation. The nature of the systematic theological method leads to significant variability of interpretive understanding while exploring challenging concepts. This includes the expectation of extending God’s grace and seeking justice for those who are afflicted or oppressed.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit is with us, to extend God’s grace, peace and mercy through these days, and to groan prayers on our behalf when our own personal struggles cause so much pain that we lose our voice to cry out to the Lord in our own strength. May we love our neighbors by being the advocate for justice that so many need. Each of us are on some part of the intersection of lives, leaders and neighborhoods. Whether standing at the corner, down the street, or repaving the roads in our own neighborhoods, we all play a role.
My prayer is that God will continue to widen the aperture of my own understanding of who he is, his nature and his people, through continued study of the Scriptures and by learning from others. In the roles we serve our Desire Street ministry partners, I am immensely grateful to deepen my comprehension about God’s grand compassion for those suffering systemic and generational brokenness, and injustice within the neighborhoods we know and love. May my own brokenness and limited understanding be used by God to draw me closer to our Lord and Savior, and closer to my fellow brothers and sisters. My desire is to be one who journeys up and down the street, through the intersection each way, loving neighbors and humbly leveraging my life to learn and serve.
Lord, help me be refreshing water to those who may be parched or scorched on the roads of life. We strive together to be vessels of God’s refreshing living water – justice and mercy in this fallen world, until Jesus arrives once again to replace all injustice, tears and pain with fullness of life, joy and that great celebration banquet that will glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And indeed, provide biblical justice for all…