Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the war against complacency

Just a few months ago I found myself caught in an internal battle over if I should or should not post a certain Facebook status. Silly, I know. And yet I still remember it so clearly. 

Winter in Cape Town can be brutal on this Florida - originating American girl. No insulation or central heating produces a cold that feels like you can never get away from. So when the notorious rainy winter days come, I get in bed under 6 different blankets and binge drink Peach Rooibos tea.

This particular time, I found myself laying under those six blankets with my favourite new tea cup in hand while I listened to the rain hit the window. I felt contentment and happiness. The Facebook status I was considering posting... "Falling asleep to the sound of the rain.... happiness." So cliche, I know. 

The reality of the situation though, is that I live across the street from a township. This particular township runs along a major highway, and a section of this area is made of homes built of sheets of tin and other various items. There are cylinder blocks placed on the roof to keep the houses together when the wind tries to tear them apart. The houses are stacked together - many in a small proximity. There is no running water and they have communal restrooms to share in this particular area. One of the many struggles that people face when they live in a township is the flooding during winter. Cape Town is notorious for having rainy days that last as long as 3 days, leaving people's homes and lives in a flooded mess.

And there I was, sitting under my blankets, dry and warm, about to post a Facebook status that meant absolute pain for others.

It was in that moment that a flood of other memories rushed through my mind. The people who sleep under the bridge. The endless faces I've seen standing at the corner of the streets asking for money or bread. Then I couldn't help but think of the 13 million people who will die from starvation this year, or those who don't have clean water, or the men, women and children who are trapped in the confines of Human Trafficking.

In a world where social justice has very much so become the “cool” (even hipster) thing to do, we all to some degree have elevated our own desires over the basic needs of others. Complacency has snuck in and we've traded compassion to seek our own comfort and satisfaction.

Yet there is something in us that is unsettled and unfulfilled when we spend our lives on ourselves.

Fight Complacency with Compassion
Complacency is when we place our comfort and satisfaction above something or someone else. We all know that internal struggle with self and self-satisfaction. Whether it is the newest iPhone or a love for donuts, more often than not our desires tend to rule our actions and the way we spend our time and money. Complacency could be defined by a materialistic lifestyle, but it can also be about the way we waste our time, energy, money, and talents on ourselves.

In 1 John 3, John warns the church about the way they treat the poor and the marginalised. He warns them not to cut off the compassion that they have for them. How true is that for us? How quickly do we see someone in lesser circumstances, sense compassion, and immediately shut it down? How often do we blindly judge individuals and settle on the fact that maybe they got themselves into that situation on their own? How often do we rationalise why we shouldn't give money to a specific organisation or how we don't have time to become an advocate for people? The solution John presents is to use our compassion for good. It is so important that we dwell in our compassion and allow it to influence our heart to act in a way that is beneficial for others. Don't shut your compassion off. Dwell in your compassion and seek wisdom in how to act on it. 

Be Pro–Life
A new understanding of the pro-life discussion has been brought to the table recently, and that is a new and all-encompassing definition of being pro-life. To be pro-life is to promote life. As Christians, we believe that all have the right to life. Life should include the basic necessities that enable individuals to grow and thrive to be a responsible individual who has the capacity to contribute to their society. Some of those basic necessities are food, shelter, clean water, protection, family, healthcare, education, job opportunities, and so on. 

Why do we easily recognise and advocate the value of life at the moment of conception for a baby, but it is scarce to see the church rising up to promote a basic standard of life to human beings who carry the same value? Be pro–life. Do what it takes to enrich the lives of those around you. Intentionally support individuals in a way that enables them to grow and flourish. 

Understand Eternity For Yourself and Others
One of the most powerful tools we have in fighting complacency is to truly understand that the life we live today is temporary and ultimately leading us to eternity with Jesus. We can so easily get caught up in our possessions and striving to have or maintain a certain lifestyle. Yet we forget that we are just passing through this life and that all of this is going to fade away soon enough. When we seek to understand the prize that we have in Jesus and the perfection that Heaven will be, nothing else compares. The glory, contentment and satisfaction that this life offers absolutely pales in comparison to the richness of Christ and His goodness. 

Often we want to resolve all of the issues that the marginalised are facing. The reality though is that the purpose of this life is to know God and to love Him wholly. If that means that we have the opportunity to feed, clothe, bring clean water to people and rescue them from forced prostitution, yes and amen. I pray that we would be about that. But if we are simply meeting the immediate and physical needs of people without pointing them to Christ, we're setting them up for eternal failure. We'd actually be hurting them in the long run. 

The root of injustice is sin. The solution to sin is the grace of Jesus Christ and His just Father. The solution is always Jesus. 

Set Small Goals and Challenge Yourself
I can't count on my hand how many times I've thought about giving something up for the benefit of others, spending my money more effectively, or volunteering my time in a different way, and falling flat on my face because I didn't start small. I used to try to beat myself into obedience in big ways, and would always have a little pity party with myself when I wasn't capable of reaching my big goals.

It is really important to sit and evaluate our lives. It isn't necessarily the best to set huge life changing goals right away. You probably can't quit your job and start volunteering full time for a non-profit, or drastically change the way you spend your resources, time and money. Don't get me wrong, I completely believe God wants to call us into big dreams and plans and His time line is according to what He sees fit. The Holy Spirit wants to move us into His Father's will, and that can be drastic and spontaneous and happen in a short amount of time. But ultimately, continuity is His goal. Whether He calls you to do something dramatic and spontaneous, or calls you to change a daily habit, His ultimate desire is that we live day by day in a consistency to Him and His Word. 

I've found that it is more beneficial to actively engage with the struggle of our heart and to recognise behaviours in every day actions and how we can change them. The goal isn't that moments and months and seasons would be focused on living for others, but that daily our natural inclination would be to see change. Set small and achievable goals that set you up for success, and continue to set your resolve on spending your life on behalf of others. It takes time. It takes effort.

...and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

Dwell in your compassion, be pro-life, understand the realities of eternity and continually challenge yourself. As the famous line from Gladiator goes.... what we do in life echoes into eternity

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