More bad news in the news feed.
Terrorism, racism, brutality, revenge.
Poverty, crime, failed second chances.
Fatherless, hurt, reactive.
This is our world without hope.
We must follow God’s call to bring hope into this hurting world. But how? This week I’m discussing how we can respond to the perpetual bad news.
Our first response is to invest in our own families, and raise compassionate, responsible children. The family is a powerful institution. What is built inside the walls of a home is eventually carried out by our children and multiplied in new homes. We must make it count!
Our next response is to look for ways we can invest in other families.
Bringing hope: Investing in Other Families
Is our cup overflowing?
Before we can pour out to others, we need to be full to the point of overflowing with what the world needs. We can’t give what we don’t have.
The world needs love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Have you ever failed at any of these? I have! Today and yesterday and many days before! Even on Sunday!
Sure we can be kind, but are we always kind (even in thought) to everyone? Can we always maintain self-control in every situation, disagreement, or political climate?
I fail. But I get back on track when I return my focus on Jesus’ example.
We can’t randomly throw these ingredients into our society’s issues hoping that will “fix” the world. True hope is not the result of applying a little love here and some joy there. If only it were that easy!
We need to be constantly filled – returning to the source – in order to have all the ingredients required to bring hope to others. Thankfully we have an endless source. The author of the recipe for hope is Jesus. And these necessary ingredients are the result of salvation and living in the Spirit.
I want to build my worldview after Jesus’ model. So I ask myself, “What is important to Jesus? What did he spend his limited time on earth doing?”
Jesus focused on investing in others and building them up to be investors so that the cycle of reconciliation and healing would continue.
Did he invest in building an army of disciples that would point their fingers at others as if they were guns firing judgments and rules and religion at the world?
No. He invested in raising up an army of disciples that would speak the truth, yes, but in love, and heal the sick, feed the poor, and care for widows and the fatherless.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27 (NIV)
Different than the general understanding of religion, God’s definition of religion consists of caring for widows and orphans and keeping ourselves from becoming a part of the world’s ugliness.
I like simple terms:
- Caring for others
- Godly self-evaluation
As easy as this sounds, it’s not. We’re distractible. We get side tracked with political views, opinions on social media, and taking selfies! It’s especially challenging in the heat of election season!
Setting our priorities on LOVE.
Jesus prioritized life with two primary guidelines: 1) Love God with every part of your being and 2) Love others as much as you love yourself.
When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus responded in this way:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Love God and love others. It’s a simple formula, but like many simple things it isn’t always easy to stay on track. Life is full of variables and complexities that make a simple formula not-so-easy to stick to.
But think about how much God accomplishes through people who strive to stay focused on these two priorities! They may not be well-known, but they are truly making a difference in the world around them.
How a teacher brought hope to the world by changing herself.
Living the Lessons, a book by Olivia LaField tells about her journey of learning to truly love her students unconditionally and tells how this revolutionized her classroom and the lives of each student in her care. She taught for many years the “old way” and admits that she unintentionally had favorites. As God revealed this to her, Olivia’s heart was broken.
Teachers are an optimistic breed. They start their careers wanting to change the world. It doesn’t take long to realize that hope doesn’t travel on optimism alone. Teachers get tired. Their optimism becomes buried in paperwork, standards, assessments and challenging student behaviors. Many evenings these heroes look at the empty desks in their classrooms and they wonder, “Did today made any difference at all?”
But God had a beautiful plan for Olivia and her students. She became passionate about bringing hope to the most challenging children. She knew her students needed to learn more than just academics. They needed wholeness.
They needed to see good character before they would apply it. They needed to see adults modeling their own expectations by taking responsibility for their actions, words, and attitudes in front of the students.
God radically changed her heart and Olivia began changing the culture of her classroom into a community of broken hearts learning to be whole. Her students learned that we all need to apologize and ask for forgiveness sometimes. They learned how to forgive and begin the process of emotional healing. They learned how to be accountable to each other and resist the pressure to make destructive choices.
They learned this because Olivia began to model it in her own character development everyday in her classroom. Her students saw her apologize when she spoke in frustration. They witnessed as she grew in compassion and love for them and others.
Olivia believes in investing in others. Now retired she is working to teach other teachers how to bring this culture of acceptance and unconditional love into their classrooms to bring hope to children with very broken personal histories.
“The value of a single child surpasses that of a galaxy of stars.” – St. Augustine
This is my heart. As a mom, as a teacher, as a community member – my desire is that all children are filled to overflowing with the ingredients that make them whole. Let’s develop our character in front of our children. Let’s model an example of humility and compassion to each child within our influence.
Investing in children is investing in families. Joining hearts with other families is an investment in community. This is how hope is multiplied.
Friends, thank you for reading along as I write the contents of my heart. I’m learning a lot as I go along. I feel vulnerable as I share publicly, but I want to grow in my perspective and capacity for compassion. Please consider sharing this with friends who are passionate about investing in families and bringing hope to our hurting world. You can share by using any of the social media buttons at the bottom of the page or by using the little envelope icon to email it to a friend. Thank you!
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