Children in Need
Yesterday I had the great privilege and challenge of teaching a group of children, in a local church, on their Sunday School day. Throughout the year they had been thinking and learning about children in Mongolia, who are being reached through AsiaLink. For that reason I had been given the task of teaching on the subject of children. As I considered what I would talk about I began to recollect all the experiences I have had with children across the world. It has been my privilege to visit a few different countries, on a couple of continents. In these countries I encountered many children with great needs.
In 2006 I visited Peru. There I met children from a very dark town, spiritually speaking. In this place there was much evil taking place, and consequently much sadness in many families and individuals lives. The gospel has unsurprisingly brought much welcome relief, but still there are many children there and they need protection, security and love.
In 2008 I visited Morocco. There I did not meet indigenous children, but I did observe them and was taught about them by workers in that country. In this place there were children who were sent to work instead of school and children who lacked adequate food and clothing. These children need schooling, clothing and food.
In 2012 I visited Zimbabwe. This country is home to hundreds of thousands of orphans (if not millions). Here I witnessed poverty unlike I had seen before: children with no parents, food, clothing, housing, care, education, but for the kindness and sacrifice of many Christians. These children need someone to care and provide for them.
Further to these experiences, the sad reality is that I have met children all throughout Ireland in exactly the same situation as those in South America and Africa: children without parents, without food, without schooling, without clothing, and without adequate housing.
A Universal Need
Despite the vast array of physical and emotional needs all across the globe, the Bible tells us that there is one need which affects all of these children. Moreover, this need is not specific to children, indeed it is not specific to any age group, people group, or social group – it is universal.
Scripture is really quite explicit. Writing to the Romans Paul quotes two Psalms (14; 53) in arguing that there is a universal need. He writes:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one. (Rom. 3:10-12)
The universal need arises in that no one is good – in more theological language, all are sinners! The need that all people have is to be rescued by Jesus from their sinful nature and its consequences.
I’m sure many of us remember the dodgy puppetry, ‘huge fires’ (which were clearly a match burning) and the very visible strings on the classic show Thunderbirds. It was great childhood Saturday afternoon television. The individuals and their Thunderbirds were the masterminds behind International Rescue, an organisation dedicated to saving human lives.
But this tagline, International Rescue: an organisation dedicated to saving human lives, sums up nicely what Jesus achieves for us. In another letter Paul puts it this way, ‘Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age’ (Gal. 1:3-4). By living a perfect live, Jesus could die for other’s sin, and in the rising again and ascending to heaven he was vindicated. In this way Jesus is capable of an international rescue. This is the gospel, and it is a message which transcends cultural boundaries – it is the universal solution to the universal need.
In an era in which social justice has rightly become more central to the discussions concerning evangelism and mission, it necessary to take a moment to pause and consider just what the above paragraphs mean when it comes to children in need.
Standing in front of those children in Peru, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Northern Ireland, the physical and emotional needs are the most obvious in many instances. It is almost impossible to overlook those needs, and it is equally as easy to be content with the ‘help’ you have offered if you can meet those physical and emotional needs quickly.
But have I fulfilled my duty as a Christian if I neglect this universal need?
It is vitally important, imperative that we demonstrate our Christianity (Jas. 2:26). But this must not be where we leave it – the universal need is not remedied by food, clothing, housing, care and love. However, on the other hand, the message of Jesus giving himself for our sins will inevitably find more welcoming ground whenever the messenger has been seen to be giving of themselves in a variety of ways.
I do not propose to give any definitive answers social justice versus evangelism/mission here (I have done this previously on the blog). My intention is merely to remind ourselves that the universal need is rescue from our sin by Jesus’ giving of himself. Nevertheless, this is not a license to ignore the most immediately apparent needs.
If you wish to pursue this concept of serving the needs of children across the globe by both helping physical and spiritual needs I would encourage you to visit compassionuk.org.