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Can I Really Make A Difference?

Written By Tay Boon Jin

 Boon Jin has been a staff with Singapore Youth for Christ for the past 15 years. She now serves in Malaysia—reaching children through the teaching of English.

“50 Inspirational Quotes On Making A Difference”
“Quotes About Making A Difference (153 quotes)”
“The Power of One”

There is no lack of websites that encourage people to make a difference. One of the most common quotes which often pops up comes from the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

Although most of these quotes are not given in context, it is not difficult to guess what they’re pointing towards. Poverty, war, crime, discrimination, and abuse of our environment are but some of the perennial issues we often read about in the news.

We sense the urgent need for a cure to the issues plaguing us. Yet, the problems our society face seem too big and complex, the resources needed to solve the problems too immense. “Can I make a difference?” becomes empty rhetoric and unachievable.

Of course, we’ve read of how some people made a huge impact individually. However, we may struggle to believe that what they achieve is actually attainable for us, too.

 

 The Root of the Problem

If we view the world from the big picture that God Himself has painted for us, we cannot but be persuaded that the root of all our problems is our sin. Thus, in some sense, there’s nothing that anyone can do that can make a real and permanent difference. The fallen state of our world makes human effort futile; the permeating effects of sins cannot be undone. In fact, each of us as a sinner contributes to the problem, in both large and small ways.

But God gave the solution to the world’s problem: the Lord Jesus Christ. He so loved the world that He sent His Son, who came in a humiliating fashion to take our punishment for us (John 3:16). If God holds the solution, perhaps the only difference we can truly make is to point someone to the solution by the word we preach and by the way we live.

When God makes us right and brings us back to Him, our perspective of the earthly life will change. A man may remain poor, but he no longer measures his worth by his wealth (or lack of it). A man may live in a war zone, but he trusts God for the peace in his heart.

 

Having the Right Motivation

That said, this does not change the fact that the social problems we face are tangible and affect us at every level. Neither does it mean that Christians should avoid all form of social good and humanitarian work. But perhaps we need to re-examine our motivations.

Jesus told this lesson in Matthew 25:31-40: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, our Lord Jesus illustrates how a follower of His ought to respond to the needs in this world—by helping out in a very practical and tangible way. But Jesus doesn’t say this because He wants His disciples to change the world. Instead, the reason He gives for us to serve others, even the “least” of all, is this: By doing so, we are serving Jesus Himself. That should and must be our motivation as we go about doing social good. We are to live Christ-centered lives so that the world will be attracted to Jesus.

As we look at great men of faith who have gone before us, we see countless servants of God who have left their homes to sow the gospel seed in foreign lands. They did not go because they thought they could change the world; they went because God called. Some did not live to see the fruit of their labor; in fact, some gave their lives that the fruit may be borne.

In my recent phase of life, God has given me opportunities to minister to a poor community in another country. My initial encounter with this community got me thinking hard about how to meet their needs. Some of the ideas that sprang to mind included ways to alleviate poverty, put all the children through school and keep them there, guide the youths to find a clear and good purpose in life, and even provide employment for the adults. These were all good goals, but I soon realized that they were beyond my means. It was discouraging to know that I could not provide the help that they needed.

It was then that I was reminded of Jesus’ words that the smallest effort to the least is by no means insignificant. I began to look at how I could help the individual: provide socks and shoes when a kid went to school in slippers, provide a month’s breakfast when a kid stopped going to school because he had no food to sustain him through the morning’s learning, provide information to unemployed parents whenever I knew of factories that had job vacancies.

As each of these recipients thanked me for relieving them of their worries and needs at those points, it gave me opportunities to testify to them that God was the one who had provided. Some of them even thanked God with me.

So let’s continue to labor on in helping others practically and spiritually. Let’s take heart that God will bring about this great work of sanctifying His people to live lives that glorify Him. And ultimately, let’s be encouraged that God will bring about perfection in the world when Christ comes again!

SOCIAL ISSUES | Themed Contribution

Hey you,

I don’t know what job you’re in. And I don’t know if you love it or hate it, or if you have a job at all. But I do know that you can serve Jesus in whatever you do, although that would probably be the more difficult option–every time. You might have a mean boss, annoying colleagues, or frustrations of not having paid work. But God’s power, which raised Jesus from the dead, is working in you to help you remember that you’re not working for nothing, but for Christ.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S. I’m praying for you, that in whatever circumstance you’re in, God will help you remember this and strengthen you with His power. 🙂

September -lettersbychrissy

What If Your Neighbor is a Prostitute?

Written by M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

A few scantily-dressed women flirt with passers-by in a dimly lit alley. Some of them strike up conversations and bargain with potential customers, while others wait around for customers to offer them a price.

It’s not an unfamiliar scene to many of us: we’ve either seen it in the movies or witnessed it in real life. In Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal, I saw prostitutes being displayed in glass cubicles—as though they were clothes on sale—for people to pick and choose.

Like it or not, the sex industry is booming because of society’s demand for sex services. So, how should we as believers respond? Or should we turn a blind eye to it?

A few years ago when I was on my graduation trip, I encountered three women, likely in their 20s, on the bus in Pahang, Malaysia. It was about 6am in the morning. They were skimpily dressed and were crying. One of them had a badly bruised face and could barely stand. The rest of the people on the bus either ignored them or stared at them strangely.

One of the ladies approached me and asked in broken English if they could borrow my mobile phone to make a call because they didn’t have any money on them. My friend immediately nudged me and warned me not to lend my phone to them in case they took off with it. But I felt for them, so I decided to do so.

Not only did they return it afterwards, but they also smiled at me and thanked me profusely for the kind gesture. Just before I stepped off the bus, I handed them some money. Later on, I received a call from an unknown number. The voice on the other end was a male’s. He asked me where I was located, so he could “collect them back”. After the conversation, I was pretty sure those ladies I had met were sex workers.

Till this day, I can still remember the look of gratitude on their faces. I believe God was teaching me a lesson about extending love to everyone—regardless of who they are and their status in society (Luke 10:27; Matthew 25:40).

God himself exemplified this radical love by making a prostitute named Rahab part of His plans for Israel. In Joshua 2, we read about how she helped the Israelite spies escape. In return, God saved her entire family. He loved her and later, gave her the status of a well-respected married woman (Matthew 1:5). She is even listed in Jesus’ lineage! (Matthew 1)

Rahab’s story and transformation shows us how God does not look at our background and status. He is interested only in our faith and obedience. So, if God treats these individuals with the same grace and mercy that He treats us, who are we to ignore or discriminate against them?

Here are four practical ways in which I believe we can respond:

1. Pray for them

Let’s pray that these prostitutes will come to believe in God and find His love and peace in their situations—especially if they are not there by choice. May God give them the means—both physical and financial—to get out of this industry and be able to receive healing.

Let’s also pray that God will open the eyes of those involved in growing and supporting this industry, to realize the evil of the industry and the lives that have been destroyed.

 

2. Pray for ourselves

We need to also pray for ourselves. May God grant us compassionate hearts to love and care for them whenever the opportunity arises. Even though we disagree with what they do, we ought to love each of them, just as God loves us and calls us to do so.

 

3. Understand their situation

Most of the time, we react without fully understanding the situations of these individuals. We need to spend time to read about their struggles and find out more about the issues. This will help us better understand them and know how to help them.

 

4. Volunteer and donate

There are many volunteering opportunities. It could simply be to befriend a former sex worker, provide them with jobs to learn new skills, or to help take care of their children. We can also donate to support organizations involved in reaching out to these individuals.  

 

I try to make the conscious effort to read up about the plight of these individuals and pray for them. Ultimately, our basic response should be that of love. Whether it is a stranger or someone we know personally, at the end of the day, they are our neighbors.

Let’s heed the call from Luke 10:27 and Matthew 25:40 to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.