One of the great figures who comes to mind when we talk about serving the marginalised is Mother Teresa. She is a great inspiration to the world. The spirit behind her ministry has been paraphrased as: “Love is not patronising and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same—with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”
Recently, I watched a series of video clips on social media about social action projects. Almost all the videos highlighted how people have become so oblivious to the poor around us. In some cases, the poor shame us by their compassionate response to others who are needy, compared to those who have the means to help. Why is there so much apathy among those who are able to help others?
Matthew 25:31–46 is a great passage calling Christians to serve the least, the last, and the lost. It is interesting to compare the responses of those on the King’s right (sheep) and on His left (goats).
The message is very simple.
Those on the right had acted out of love. It came as a natural response to the least, last, and lost. It was not noticed by others. It was not done to earn some form of credit for themselves. Jesus called them righteous and blessed, and said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
On the other hand, those on the left were taken by surprise when Jesus condemned them for not doing so. They asked Jesus, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” (Matthew 25:44) Perhaps they had been involved in compassion ministries, but only out of duty and not as a response of love. Thus Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)
It is not about the “doing” but the “being”. Often we take big groups of people to homes for the aged, children’s homes, halfway houses and such to conduct events on special occasions and during festive seasons.
However, these same people who are happy to show love at such events may sometimes miss ministering to their neighbour who is in need. Our compassionate ministry sometimes seems stronger at events, but lacking as a way of life.
As church-goers, we have many opportunities to participate in compassion ministries. There are many programmes organised to reach out to the needy. These programmes and events are organised to bring awareness and opportunities to experience the joy of serving with compassion. Take these opportunities to learn and equip yourselves, that compassion may become our natural response to those who are in need of God’s touch of love.
John Wesley declared that Christ’s Gospel “knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness”. Though he said this within a context of the need for Christian fellowship and community, it is often quoted to champion social action for the community.
Wesley did much in his time to bring justice, and help the poor. With such history and heritage, we Methodists cannot shy away from this call to social action.
The Rev James Nagulan –
was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) 2016 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Tamil Methodist Church (Short Street) and Seletar Tamil Methodist Church.