Those of you who pay attention to these things know that Wednesday was “Blog Action Day” a day when bloggers around the world wrote about poverty. I didn’t find out about this until yesterday, and didn’t get around to writing anything until today.
When I read about Blog Action Day, my first thought was, “What a wonderful idea!”, all these people, all around the world writing, reading, thinking, commenting on the same topic. I wondered if some people would be inspired to new action. Perhaps enthusiasm was rekindled where the passion had burned out.
Maybe some were inspired to combat poverty by addressing the systemic issues. Writing letters. Supporting global initiatives. Advocating for the poor at the state or national level. Perhaps someone thought of a creative ways to address large problems. Someone wrote a large check. Someone picked up the phone and volunteered their our time. Someone changed jobs to pursue a careers dedicated to the eradication of poverty. Someone ran for elected office.
Now some would say the best way to eradicate poverty is to work locally. There are poor people in each of our towns. That’s where we can make a difference. And that’s true. And lots of us do that. We do it every week, some of us do it every day. We collect food for the food pantry. We contribute to funds to help pay the heating bills for the poor. We help rehab houses. We tutor kids. We help adults learn to read. We support low or no cost medical clinics. Perhaps Blog Action Day moved someone to greater involvement locally.
Honestly though, it wasn’t too long before the pragmatist in me thought, is this really going to change anything? They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Did “Blog Action Day” just pave a few more miles of road that day? Poverty is a huge, complex problem, exactly what good does raising awareness do? Our local coat drive and heating fund helped lots of people last winter, but it’s October, winter is just around the corner…. again.
All this effort and yet….have we changed anything for the better? And so some of us just give up. It’s too hard. It’s too big. It’s too complex. It’s too sad. Do I need more things to feel guilty about? Do I need to feel more ineffective and helpless?
That’s really the problem isn’t it? We may have a burst of enthusiasm but then we say to ourselves, “I’m just one person, what can I do?”
And yet, for Christians, we must keep working. If we take Jesus seriously we have no choice. But what to do? Where do we focus our energies? Do we work systemically? Do we work locally? Where do we put our efforts? Hunger? Health care? Housing? Job training? It’s the same question all over again. I’m just one person, what can I do?
But we are asking the wrong question. It’s not what can I do? It’s what will God do?
Consider these words from N.T.Wright,
But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of god, into the new creation that god will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhance there. *
So, Dear Reader, figure it out- thoughtfully and prayerfully. Especially prayerfully.
Figure it out. And then do it.
Knowing that nothing, none of it, no matter how discouraged you are, no matter how futile it seems, no matter how large the problem and no matter how small our effort, none of it is wasted. Thanks be to God.
* Surprised by Hope N.T. Wright, HarperOne, 2008 pages 208-209