As stories of human suffering continue to develop from recent hurricanes in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as the devastating earthquake in Mexico, stories of everyday Americans joining the relief effort continue as well.
One category of relief workers is faith-based organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, the Southern Baptist, the Salvation Army, and many local churches. As a follower of Christ, I am grateful for the relief efforts of so many people of faith. In September, Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, where I have the privilege of teaching, sent a group of students, staff, and administrators from Springfield, MO, to Houston to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. In addition, other BBFI churches partnered with the efforts of the Texas Baptist Bible Fellowship to demonstrate the power of working together to help serve those in need.
Many people have asked what motivates such generosity and care from people of faith. Ultimately and simply – love. The Bible writers regularly challenged the Christian to enjoy the love of Christ personally and enjoy sharing it as well. The love of Christ influences and impacts the Christian in various ways.
Since Christians have and do receive the love of Christ, we are to be motivated by it. For Paul, the love Christ demonstrated toward him was a major motivation for all he did. He wrote, “For the love of Christ compels or controls us, because we discern that if One died for all, then all died: and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Paul’s logic is simple: since Christ demonstrated the most extreme love by dying on the cross for our sins to allow us the ability to live forever with God in eternity, the least we can do is choose to sacrificially serve Christ and others. Therefore, when the Christ-follower sees the catastrophic effects of a hurricane or earthquake, we are compelled to sacrificially seek to serve others.
In an expanded sense, the Gospel refers to life in Christ as well. Various passages challenge Christians to live worthy of the Gospel – to live in our communities in a way consistent with the message and meaning of the Gospel.
In Philippians, we are challenged to live worthy of the Gospel (1:27-2:30). The writer describes part of living worthy as paying attention to the needs of others, as Christ demonstrated on the cross.
When Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40) and Paul (Galatians 5:14) summarized the law of God, they pointed in two directions.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-40).
First, love is upward toward God, often referred to simply as worship. We are to love God supremely with our whole hearts. This is the first commandment.
Second, love is outward toward others. This commandment relates to how our love goes horizontal throughout our community. We receive love vertically from God in Christ and seek to share that love horizontally with others. Loving others above one’s love of self is not only a good idea, it is commanded. God never intended for us to just be receivers of the love of God in Christ. Instead, we are to be conduits of that love and reflect it toward others.
So, why are so many people of faith engaged in relief efforts? Although there could be as many individual reasons as there are people, the ultimate reason for every Christian centers on the love of God in Christ. It is a pleasure to share it with others.