Changing Lenses

If I’m being completely honest with you, prior to my first month in Thailand I never really thought much about the poor. In fact, I could almost say that I made efforts to stay away from “them”. Typically I would make up some excuse to justify my lack of care towards the poor, “I can’t relate to them, I’ve never been poor” or “They’re going to judge me for the wealth that I do have.” These were serious thoughts that I remember intentionally having. This wasn’t always the case though. There were the times that I experienced poverty first hand, like on my trips to El Salvador and Haiti. I remember feeling angry, sad, confused, and heartbroken over the state in which these people lived. And not just people, God’s people. Why was I afforded the privileges of a comfortable life when just across a body of water lived a people who had very little? But then I left those places and returned back to my comfortable life, where at first I was bitter and wanted to seek justice for these people but that slowly faded and I was once again sucked up into the consumerist culture known as America. I can’t sit here and say to you that I don’t enjoy air conditioning, having my own car, having endless fast food options, wearing nice clothes, and owning the latest technology because I enjoy those things way too much. And I can’t blame anyone or be mad at myself because it was simply the culture that I was raised in. It’s undoubtedly a part of me. I relate to the rich, not the poor. So why would I in a consumerist and materialistic society “stoop down” or make sacrifices to reach out to the poor? Exactly, I didn’t. I catered to the marginalization of the poor. I didn’t extend a hand, I casted a judgment. I allowed myself to live comfortably with no acknowledgment of the poor around me. So why did I live my life in such a way and when were the excuses going to stop? I honestly don’t know. I enjoyed my comfortable Christianity. I chose to focus on discipleship, living in community, studying his word, and serving in the local church. Don’t get me wrong those are important, but I always felt compelled to more. Christ calls us into action. To care for the widow, to clothe the naked, to feed to hungry, to love on the orphan, and give to the poor. So if I felt compelled, then why did I never respond? I don’t have an answer. Me coming to Bangkok to serve the urban poor was not my way of living boldly for Christ. I simply came because God has called me to be a missionary and I am seeking discernment about what He wants to do through me. And yet despite my selfish desires and expectations of what these next two years will teach me or what the Lord will reveal to me, the Lord is working in my life in a way that I can only describe as, He’s wrecking me. My attitude towards the poor was never something I dwelt on daily, it was just an attitude that I subconsciously held and acted on. But as I have moved into the slums the Lord has made me aware of my perspective on a people that He loves very much. I’m horrible when it comes to loving like Jesus did, but God in His mercy has begun to show me the love he has for the poor and that is something that I want to be a part of. I don’t have it all together, I’m still learning. I am still having thoughts of comparison and I still find myself longing for the comforts that I’m used to living in. I’m not sure I’ll ever get it together, but God is challenging me to stop viewing the world through the lens of American Christianity and culture and to start viewing it through the lens of Jesus. Jesus loves the poor and so should I. It’s really that simple. I’m just not there yet, but will be. It honestly shouldn’t matter if I identity with the rich or with the poor. What should matter is if I identify with Jesus. Jesus is what matters. And I want to care about what Jesus cares about.