This week I’ll be talking to the Second Stories team about why we do what we do. Why, for instance, would we stand around on 82nd Avenue giving out popsicles and talking to people on Friday nights, or helping Portland Parks and Recreation give free lunches to children? Why would we dig dirt out of the parking strip on a street in Lents on a 95-degree day. Why would we mentor kids from elementary schools or spend hundreds of hours planning and recruiting churches and volunteers to run a free medical and pet care clinic? Why would we give tons of time to run a summer day camp for kids from low-income families? Why would we put in all that time and sweat?
Is it because we care about clean and beautiful streets? Is it because we want at-risk kids to have the best chances to succeed? Maybe it is because we know Oregon is the third hungriest state in the nation, or maybe because we know there are a lot of hurting, lonely, poor, and trafficked people along 82nd Avenue. These are pretty good reasons. Yet, they all boil down to one reason actually: We love people. That’s a really good reason.
However, is love for people the best reason? Could serving people ever be bad, or at least not as selfless as we might tell ourselves it is? Service, social work, and the like are capturing the attention of much of the church these last few years. Pardon me, but I must ask why? Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for service…sort of. What I mean is, I think there are a lot of potentially poor reasons to serve people. Yet, without going into the many not-so-great reasons, let me mention the one sublime reason for serving fellow human beings. That reason is love for Jesus Christ! Cliché, right?
Perhaps, but it is the truth of this question. In the recent online posting by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola called “A Jesus Manifesto,” the authors say,
Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces floating around in space.
Without love for Jesus as the motivation for service, social justice and everything else we would do, the result is a kind of self-service and self-promotion. Look what I do. Notice me. Honor and appreciate me – in fact be in awe of me…for all the good I do.
No! Why do we do good? Because good was done to us. We love because Jesus first loved us. We do these things because we are responding worshipfully toward the One who loves us, or at least this is what we are striving for.
Click here to read “A Jesus Manifesto,” which is a very good call to remember the primacy and centrality of Jesus in all we are and do.