Setting Aside Division, Uniting to Love and Serve our Neighbors

Daniel 2:20-21 (ESV)
Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Jeremiah 29:7
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

This week, one American presidential era ends, and another one begins. The presidency of Donald Trump will begin after what seems to me to have been a particularly-fractious race for the leadership of our country. I can recall watching these battles since Jimmy Carter won the White House (1976) and I personally cannot recall a more bitter fight than this latest election. It seems to me the odor of this latest battle has left a residue of division in a lot of the interactions I see around me these days.

ForColumbia 2017: April 29, 2017

This isn’t a political statement. Rather, it’s an observation on how being steeped in angry accusations and disrespectful interactions may be impacting all of us at a heart level, perhaps even in ways of which we are not fully aware. Maybe I’m completely wrong about this, but in the last several months, people seem more impatient with each other, less respectful, more likely to verbally express irritation publicly. People all around me have just felt…less kind. I’ve seen it in myself.

And, of course, we are not just divided along political lines; these last few years, the news has brought us untold examples of racial division, too. Division, mistrust and acrimony very clearly changes us for the worse.

So…here’s some encouragement.

For the last two years, Bible-believing Christian churches in Columbia have been partnering to serve alongside each other for the good of our community – and its more marginalized individuals – in an annual effort called ForColumbia.

The churches partnering with ForColumbia don’t always agree on every point of theology, or the best way to worship God on Sunday mornings or even the kinds of songs that should be a part of a worship service…but we can all unite under the truth that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we all need a Savior (Acts 4:12), that Jesus the man was also God incarnate (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9), that He is the Christ (Matthew 16:16) who died for our sins (1 Peter 2:24), rose again (1 Thessalonians 4:14) and is that Savior (John 9:35-38). And we can all agree that God calls us to two primary efforts – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Luke 10:25-27).

So…what does it look like to love our neighbor? The Bible gives us several examples.

  • The prophet Jeremiah tells the Israelite people, who had been dragged off to Babylon, not to revolt against their oppressors but to settle down and to seek the good of the city, calling his people to be at peace with their neighbors…even though these were the very same people who had carried them in captivity far from their homes (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
  • Daniel and Joseph were both held against their will in foreign lands, but by seeking the good of those to whom they were enslaved, they both rose to power and brought much good to their neighbors by their love for God and obedience to His call on their lives (Daniel 6:1-4; Genesis 39:2-6; Genesis 41:28-40).
  • Jesus told his disciples that when we do small things – like offer a cup of cold water to someone – we are serving Him (Matthew 10:42). He made it clear that when we engage in loving behavior toward others, it is apparent to all that we love God (John 13:35). His name is glorified by our acts of love.

Save the Date: April 29, 2017

So…what does it look like to love our neighbors right here in Columbia, Missouri?

You are likely living out this call on your life right now, loving those around you in everyday ways – delivering a meal to someone who is sick or just had a baby; visiting someone in the hospital; helping an elderly person with yard work or repairing a broken toilet. ForColumbia seeks to find ways to love and serve in much the same way; last year, over 1,600 volunteers from 33 partnering churches came together and:

  • provided lawn care and trash removal, planted bushes and spread mulch, cleaned homes and washed windows;
  • built wheelchair ramps, fixed fences and power-washed and stained decks;
  • provided food to the homeless, to those needy in Columbia, to kids living as orphans.

ForColumbia volunteers worked not only with individuals, but also with non-profit organizations in Boone County that work every day to serve our poorest and most needy neighbors, organizations that are also seeking the good of our city. For these organizations, volunteers:

  • built shelves, painted offices and replaced old siding;
  • provided landscaping, planted flowers and power-washed buildings;
  • assembled packages for five different organizations, enabling them to provide necessities to the homeless, children in abusive situations, those needing food and the most basic toiletries.

So…how can you help?

Right now (Jan. 2017), the organizers of ForColumbia 2017 are actively looking for service opportunities such as these once again, so that hundreds – maybe thousands – of Christians can unite this spring and love their neighbors, seeking the good of our city.

Here are just a few ways you can offer to serve:

  • Join our Prayer Team. An effort of this magnitude requires a lot of prayer. Please pray that our efforts would bring glory to Christ, that those we serve would not only be comforted in this life but that God would use ForColumbia to draw more people to Himself. (For more information on how to receive regular prayer updates, contact us at info@forcolumbia.com.)
  • Save the Date: Saturday, April 29. Plan to set that one day apart to participate in one of the many opportunities to seek the good of our city. Volunteer sign-ups will open up in mid-March.
  • Join the Planning Efforts. If you are organized, or have construction experience, or simply want to find a way to help with some aspect of the planning of this large effort, contact us at info@forcolumbia.com.

The division we see all around us breeds mistrust and anger; unity breeds love and renewal. Christians in Columbia are uniting once again to battle back against the air of division all around us. Save the date and join us!

One Comment

  1. Mel West said:

    This project is indeed “on target” and I highly commend it. I have had over 50 years of front line experience doing exactly what this project promotes. With the Office of Creative Ministries we sent some 250 youth workcamps out across Missouri to work on the housing of the elderly poor. We built an entire house for a leg-handicapped little man here in Columbia. We went to South Dakota to work with the Sioux. We scraped paint, painted hundreds of houses, rebuilt hundreds of porches, built dozens or wheelchair ramps, mowed hundreds of lawns, and raked tons of leaves, and much more. We built a child care facility in Kromy, Russia, and new homes in Esparza, Cost Rica.
    With Habitat for Humanity I helped build decent houses in decent communities for low-income families. Two years ago I drove some nails into Habitat house number 800,000 in Atlanta.
    All of that was done in the spirit of a fellow named Jesus who asked us to serve those whom he called “the least.”
    We did not argue theology, or how to baptize, or what songs to sing at church. We helped people at their point of need. Now, at PET, we have built around 58,000 hand-cranked wheelchairs and sent them to leg-handicapped persons in 104 countries-giving them an amazing new life. All that has been done by volunteers of many faith groups including atheists. A nail does not know the faith of the hand that drives it.
    1908 Heriford is, I claim, the “happiest place in town.” Our volunteers there (over 100) know that they are using their skills and energies, and money, to give an amazing new life to some person far away who is far less fortunate. One theology unites us- “Love neighbor as self.” All other is trivia.
    Psychologists tell us that we are happiest, and most content with ourselves, when we are using the skills we have accumulated over a lifetime, and our money and energies, to help someone less fortunate. The question is not, “What does the world owe me?” The question is, “What is the world asking of me?”
    If all the protesting groups would pick up hammers, shovels, and paint brushes, and work together every weekend, bridges would be built instead of walls, and we would begin to discover what is important in this life.
    Someone wrote: “Rascal, scoundrel, flout; he draw a circle that shut me out. But love and I had the wit to win; we drew a circle that took him in.”
    Another wrote: “I slept and dreamed that life was joy; I awoke and aw that life was service; I acted and, behold, service was joy.” B. Tagore.
    My mentor, John Wesley, wrote it:
    “Do all the good you can,
    whenever you can,
    wherever you can,
    however you can,
    with whomever you can.
    with whatever you can,
    in any way you can,
    as long as you ever can.”
    The denominational churches are in steep decline. They have built walls instead of bridges, and drawn their circles to tightly. If they do emerge as anything more than a shell of their former selves it will be because they discover service. We have ought freedom of religion, and yet have become enslaved to it.
    At age almost 93 I do not do much of the physical work of what ForColumbia is all about, but I can highly commend them for so doing.
    Some years ago a work team did a not of work on the house of a family in Springfield, MO, whose father/husband was fighting a battle with cancer. As we finished he came, on his crutches, out to my pickup and asked, “What kind of religion you folks got? I never knowed of the church to help someone before.”
    The world, the city, is asking us, “What kind of religion do you folks have?”

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