From the beginning of The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, author Mark Labberton has written about perceiving, naming and now he will address the final step of loving our neighbors: acting.
It is the part of life where there is visible evidence of love: the ACT of love.
He has written about perceiving. Perceiving is essential to acting. We see things that need our attention, people who need our help, wrong conditions that need to be put right. If we did not perceive, nothing would happen.
He has written about naming. Naming is essential to acting. We have to put a label on a problem. We know we can put labels on problems that draw us closer to action or we can put labels on problems that push us further away from action.
But perceiving is a mental activity, requiring no physical response. Naming is a mental activity that helps us communicate to others what we perceive. Again, no physical response needed, no real ACT of love.
Acting is a whole other ballgame. To use a common phrase, it is “putting skin in the game” or the process of committing to doing something. It is assuming a risk.
One of the most common things I do on a weekly basis is attend a prayer session at church. I tell you this not to make you that I am a righteous person. I just fell into this job accidently. When I was working on gathering material for our church website, I was researching all of the ministry areas of the church and I thought we had intercessors who met on a weekly basis to pray for people. As it turns out, our weekly prayer group no longer met. I told my pastor and she said “That’s not going to work!”
I contacted a long-time prayer group member and found that he had been meeting for prayer by himself in the library. No one knew.
I suggested he and I start inviting people to prayer group via church-wide-email and maybe we could get it going again. Our numbers are few but for the past three years, three to five of us have been meeting to pray for our church and our church members.
I have fallen into the job of intercessor.
It has not been easy. The prayer part has not been particularly difficult. Knowing the many serious needs of people in my church and community has been hard. In fact I have had problems with depression due to the news of people who are seriously ill, in dire material need or having familial relationship issues. I guess I have taken on their troubles “mentally”.
Note that I said mentally not physically.
I have perceived their problems, I have named their problems but I have not acted to relieve their difficulties.
Since blogging on The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor I have suffered some hopeless feelings due to my lack of action. Labberton says “saying ‘Lord Lord’ but failing to show it is easy. Our God knows us thoroughly and knows that any real commitment to helping those with trouble in the world shows a true transformation of the heart.” He says “We are free to act justly, but we just don’t.”
I found a free verse poem in some papers a relative left me and it fits right here. As Pastor Labberton calls for action, so does this short poem entitled “Does It Matter?”.
“I was hungry and you formed a humanities club to discuss my hunger. . . THANK YOU.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel to pray for my release. . .NICE.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance . . . WHAT GOOD DID THAT DO?
I was sick and you knelt and gave thanks God for your health . . . BUT I NEEDED YOU.
I was homeless and you preached to me of the shelter of the love of God . . . I WISH YOU’D TAKEN ME HOME.
I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me . . . WHY DIDN’T YOU STAY?
You seem so holy, so close to God; but I’m still very hungry, lonely, cold and in pain . . .”
As we discuss the last section of Pastor Labberton’s book entitled “Acting” it will become even harder to write, harder to encourage others to act when I feel I just don’t do enough.
I pray and feel so close to God.
Maybe God wants me to pray and feel close to people in need…