There is a generation under siege today. Recent events only bring to the surface what is occurring all over our world every day. Our young people are growing up in the most violent, abusive, impoverished, neglected, enslaved, exploited, and fatherless world in history.
When Jesus was on earth he was on a rescue mission and still is! “The Son of Man came to seek and to save (rescue) the lost” (Luke 19:10). Many are lost in the sex slave trade, others as child soldiers, or in poverty, in gangs, on drugs or alcohol, victims or perpetrators of violence, or trapped in horrendous abusive environments. Still more are school drop outs and others live under bridges at night. The plight for many is very real and their situation is critical. They are in need of rescue! Jesus wants to use us to do just that!
Abuse and exploitation of children and young people is a big deal to God. A really big deal! Nothing seemed to anger Jesus more than the thought of hurting a child. “Better for them to have a millstone (a very big rock) tied around your neck and thrown into the sea than cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Matt 18:6-8). Wow! Jesus is saying,”You mess with them and I will deal with you!”
The battle is on for this generation! In John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief only comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” Kids are at ground zero in Satan’s attempt to destroy a generation. And we must make a stand and fight for them at every level. He will not and cannot have this generation. Wess Stafford aptly declares that Satan hates God and the way he tries to hurt God is to hurt what he loves the most. You, me, and our kids! If you want to hurt me and take me out then hurt my kids! Any parent knows this. The most vulnerable are the little ones. When poverty, war and injustice occur, children always suffer the most!
So whose problem is it and “who is our neighbor”? Too often some Christians have concluded that caring for those outside the church—the poor, dirty, and the desperate—must be someone else’s responsibility. This reminds me of a humorous joke about two guys in a fishing boat that started taking in water when one said to the other, “I’m glad the hole is not on my end of the boat.” Reality is that if there is a leak anywhere in the boat you are both going down. So it is in our world. Erwin McManus once said, “How can we wash the feet of a dirty world if we are afraid to touch it?”
Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us we have responsibility to act. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” In the book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Starks writes about how the marginal Jesus movement became the dominant religious force in the western world. He shares a story about how the Christians in the Roman-Greco world would go out every night and pick up discarded children, take them home and raise them as their own. Who does that? They did not see these children as someone else’s problem but saw these children as their own and God’s. These are people who turned the world upside down for Jesus. They were willing to sacrifice themselves and open up their homes to welcome these babies. They gave them a chance at the life God intended.
This rescue piece is close to home for me. I was rescued when I was a young teenager. At 13, I was living in a rough and scary part of Los Angeles, seldom going to school, often left alone caring for three younger siblings while my mother was working or out partying. A family noticed and invited me to come live with them and gave me a chance for a different path. (And I took it, though it broke up our family). I can’t imagine where I would be today and what I would be doing had they not intervened in my life! Three families later I graduated from High School and went on to get a BA and MA degree from two universities. All a very big miracle made possible because someone did something about what they saw!
Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming. There are so many problems, so many starving and hurting children, so much injustice, trafficking, child soldiers, gangs, abuse and more. It is easy to throw up our hands and do nothing because we don’t know what to do or where to start. I love the popular story of the boy who was throwing starfish back into the sea when there were thousands dying still dying on the sand. An old man chides him saying, “What do you think you are doing? You are wasting your time and what you are doing doesn’t matter because you can’t save them all.” He snaps back as he throws one starfish back, “It mattered to that one”!
I also love what the rock legend Bono said to Bill Hybels in an interview a few years ago. “We can’t do everything but what we can do we must do.” I like that. But what can we do?
Who has God put in your path? We don’t have to look very far to find those needing rescue. It’s about keeping our eyes and heart open for what God wants to show us. We need to see “the one” not just the masses. Look beyond the pictures and the pleas! We must see and love whoever is right in front of us.
A woman on a mission trip to Africa reported, “When we went to Mozambique, we saw a 12 year old sick girl in a trash heap, and all we cared about was that girl. We tried to get the lice off of her and get her food and a place to stay.” This event opened up the rest of the ministry God had planned for us. And so, everyday, all we do is see and love the one who’s right in front of us.
So, where is God’s love taking you? Who in your church needs to be rescued? In your neighborhood? In your community? Local school? In our world? Could it be to your church’s kids or student ministry? To the local Boys/Girls Club? Pregnancy Center, tutoring, mentoring, adopting or being a foster parent? Sponsoring a Compassion International Child? Joining a gang task force? Let’s look outside the box!
When we see people through God’s eyes everything changes. Our hearts become filled with hope and vision of what could be! We see beyond the present circumstance and envision people being set free to be everything God intended. The adventure of the Kingdom is upon us as Jesus invites us to join with Him in his rescue mission!
Next week: REACH – Giving every child/teen an opportunity to come into relationship with Jesus Christ.