Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
A mark of the early church was its incredible compassion toward others – especially those in the family of faith. Through the love of God in Christ they saw humanity differently, they saw the dignity of each person and expressed concern for one another through generosity and encouragement. It was written, “There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34), and this describes the urge within their souls, by virtue of the redeeming presence of the Spirit, to lift up one another.
I see this same spirit of generosity among Christians today. Though we can always do more, it is not true to wring our hands and say that no one is doing anything. It simply is not true. Many are doing a lot today. I see it every day and witness the godly compassion of believers who are being transformed by the Spirit. The same Spirit who is present with us today was the One who moved in their hearts in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
We read later how some in Jerusalem tried to appear more generous than they were (Acts 5:1-11), and how some in Thessalonica took advantage of this Christian compassion (2 Thess. 3:6-12). Both responses reveal the attitude of self-pity and a disrespect of others. That generosity can encourage the self-important on both sides to abuse the system should not deter us from being generous and skepticism and cynicism are just other forms of the same attitude of self-importance.
The work of the Spirit within us will always lead toward a new assessment of the importance of material things, the value of the human soul, and, most importantly, the hope of life eternal. From the moment we trust in Christ we are being trained for eternity. The things of this earth should be fading from our affections and those fit for eternity should be growing, namely the word of God and the souls of people. We especially do the will of God when we combine these two – when we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves by sharing the gospel with them.
In the West we have too often placed the obligation to help the helpless onto the government, but the government is limited in what it can do. Christian compassion, to come alongside personally and help others, is much more transforming in another’s life than the government can ever be. In the midst of political campaigning these issues are often misrepresented and twisted, and sometimes even downplayed, but regardless of where we stand politically, as Christians we are commanded and urged to help the poor and the destitute.
Contrary to what we may think, disease and crime do not stop at certain neighborhoods. They leap the fences of so-called social barriers to impact us all, and though some form of self-protection is advisable, complete isolationism is not a reasonable option for anyone. So when we speak up for the helpless, we speak up for ourselves as well.
But the heart of Christian compassion is not a mere political or economic thought. At its center Christian compassion for others is fueled by the confidence in eternity, a new and eternal hope for the future, and from this a new understanding of human dignity.