How do you respond when you see an appeal on the TV or have a letter through your door asking you to give money to those in need?
Does the fact that these people are on often on the other side of the world make their suffering less real to us?
Is it that we are so engrossed in our life of relative luxury, with a house, electricity, running water, car, TV, computer, food in the cupboard, that we can’t comprehend that other people could really be suffering in the way being described?
As caring human beings, who I’m sure would feed a starving child who turned up on our doorstep, why do we not respond more generously when these appeals are made? Are our hearts touched by their pain or do we have compassion fatigue?
In my work I am taken to many poverty stricken communities where I support the development of programmes to help transform people’s lives and bring them out of poverty. Leprosy and disability are huge issues in the majority of these communities.
Leprosy is not a disease confined to biblical times, a quarter of a million new cases are diagnosed each year. Although easily treated with a course of Multi-Drug Therapy, if left untreated it can lead to nerve damage that results in severe disability. However, it is not just the physical effects of the disease that are a problem. Leprosy is surrounded by such stigma that people are often thrown out of their communities, lose their job, are refused entrance to school or excluded from social gatherings. Life becomes almost unbearable.
I meet so many people who have tragic stories to tell that I have used ‘focusing on the problem’ rather than ‘the person’ as a protection mechanism to enable me to cope with the challenges of working with communities in such abject poverty.
But God says:
18 Zion, deep in your heart
you cried out to the Lord.
Now let your tears overflow
your walls day and night.
Don’t ever lose hope
or let your tears stop.
19 Get up and pray for help
all through the night.
Pour out your feelings
to the Lord,
as you would pour water
out of a jug.
Beg him to save your people,
who are starving to death
at every street crossing.
God wants us to open our hearts and feel their pain. When we see a picture of a child collecting leaves to eat as she has no other food, like in a leprosy community I visited recently in South Sudan……
should our response be, oh that’s sad, or should we be moved to tears praying for that child and her community and giving as generously as we are able to bring life and hope to those in need?
These verses in Lamentations have certainly challenged me…. I must soften my heart, feel their pain and do all I can through prayer, voice and deed to make a difference. Jesus was a radical who stood up against injustice, if we are to walk in his footsteps we can’t stay silent or do nothing. We have to act. We are God’s hands and feet, He works through us, so we have to respond!
As we think about those affected by leprosy around the world, let us also meditate on what God says about giving, and pray that he will touch our hearts to give generously to those in need.
Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
To find out more about leprosy and the work of The Leprosy Mission visit: http://www.leprosymission.org.uk
Like them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TheLeprosyMissionEnglandandWales
and follow on twitter http://twitter.com/leprosytalk