Intentional Care for the Community
Deut. 22:1 You shall not watch your neighbor’s ox or sheep straying away and ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner. 2 If the owner does not reside near you or you do not know who the owner is, you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until the owner claims it; then you shall return it. 3 You shall do the same with a neighbor’s donkey; you shall do the same with a neighbor’s garment; and you shall do the same with anything else that your neighbor loses and you find. You may not withhold your help.
In these few simple statements we find an illustration for a community of faith that practices loving their neighbor. Initiative is to be exercised among the members as they reach out to care for one another. When one observes someone’s sheep straying — it is not to be ignored but brought back to the owner. The well-being of the donkey is everyone’s responsibility. Your neighbor’s daily needs are your responsibility! It is not yours to judge how your neighbor lost their personal goods, it is your responsibility to help.
The community is to protect the livelihood of their fellow Israelites. Their lives are inter-connected and there is an obligation to love one’s neighbor, no matter the cost. They are, collectively, God’s people, and as such, are to intentionally care for all within the community.
My mother used to always tell me to “use your initiative.” When we are presented with situations which need a response, we are to respond. However, our individualistic world tends to encourage us to take care of ourselves, and not worry about others. Therefore we let the sheep go astray and the donkey wander off.
As a community of faith we are to take initiative in helping one another. Just this week I heard the testimony of Leo Morton, the Chancellor of the University of Missouri at Kansas City in which he shared about the community in which he had been raised. They all looked after one another, and he specifically shared that his teachers (who also attended his church) and the neighbors down the street would have all had permission from his parents to keep him in line. That’s what the community did — they all watched out for each other and took initiative to keep them on the straight and narrow. In his neighborhood divorce was not a part of the vocabulary, and neither was staying home and not working an option. The result was an entire community who had the best interest of the whole in mind.
As Christian communities we are compelled to respond in this way. We are to take initiative when we see things going in the wrong direction. That child who has strayed or that believer who is suddenly missing from the community of faith. Take initiative. Pick up your phone and call or text them, let them know they are loved and missed. Pray for them. Lead them back home.
The command is clear and direct. “You may not withhold your help.” John Wesley often talked of sins of omission. It’s not just about what you do wrong, but what was the right thing to do and the fact that you didn't use your initiative! We are challenged to intentionally care for the community. Let’s do it!
Lord, may I follow through and use initiative to make a difference. Amen.