By Rachel Freeny
The worn notebook balanced precariously on my knees as my pen raced across the page. My hand moved as quickly as possible, desperately trying to catch every word coming from the pastor's mouth. My ears strained to catch his voice above the noise of rickshaws and neighbors filtering in through the window.
When God speaks, you work extra hard not to miss a word. God was speaking through this Indian pastor sitting directly across from me, arms crossed and resting on his rounded stomach.
“If the Christian people aren't doing, God will turn to other people because they are His too. They just don't know it,” Pastor Singh* said. “God uses all types of people.”
We were talking about the different groups that do humanitarian work in his neighborhood. Pastor Singh's church is small, and they do what they can to minister to the slum where the church is located. They are not the only ones meeting needs of the community, which suffers from hunger and illness, among other things.
While Pastor Singh sees the church as God's primary avenue for reaching out to the community, he acknowledges that often the church fails to answer God's call to care for the poor and marginalized.
“God gives [these tasks] to the church first,” he said, “But [Christians] are saying, 'Oh I do not have money, I do not have this, I do not have that.' God says, 'I have lots of money. I will provide, you just do.'”
When the church makes excuses and ignores God calling to care for others, God finds other ways to care for God's people. Pastor Singh reminded me of Mordecai in the book of Esther.
Esther was young Jewish woman who married the Persian king, Xerxes. When Haman, the king's right-hand man, got the king to decree that all Jews be put to death, Esther was tasked with convincing the king not to do so.
When her first attempts are unsuccessful, Mordecai urges her to keep trying, saying,”if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter” (Esther 4:14a).
Mordecai had faith that God's love for God's people was so big that God would stop at nothing to rescue them. Pastor Singh believed this too.
God doesn't have to use the church to carry out God's work in the world. God doesn't need Christians to show God's people they are loved. God chooses to do so. God chooses to use the church, and we should take seriously this divine calling.
We take God's calling seriously when we participate in peacemaking efforts instead of war. We take it seriously when we advocate for restorative justice instead of the death penalty. We take it seriously when we work to end poverty or racism or human trafficking. We take it seriously when we love our families and friends with all of our hearts.
God chooses to use the church, but God does not limit God's work to the church. God's love for every human God created is bigger than our failure to act and our limited resources.
Let us mourn the times we fail to take God's calling seriously, but let us rejoice in bigness of God's rescuing and redeeming love. It's never too late to grab hold of grace and live into the works of love that God empowers each of us to do. Let's not miss our chance to be a part of God's kingdom work here on earth.
*Names changed for security reasons