1 John 3:17-18 (ESV)
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? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
No doubt, one of the ways a follower of Jesus will express love is to meet the needs of hurting people. We must be people who open our hearts to those in need, loving in deed and truth. Maintaining the balance of loving in deed and truth can be difficult. Some organizations have a strong emphasis on truth, holding carefully to the principles of Scripture, but they can miss the great needs they should meet. Other groups have a strong emphasis on deed, involving people in wonderful acts of kindness and love, but lose the connection to sound beliefs and miss God.
I want to encourage you to get involved in meeting the needs around the world. Be a part of the solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa, or in making a difference in the lives of those living in poverty. There are so many issues, and a number of very good organizations that can give you an avenue to love people and live the Gospel. My desire in this blog is to help you find the right group. But beware! Before you send money or partner with an organization or ministry, you should be sure of a few things to make sure your efforts are making an eternal impact and that your money is really going where you want it to go. So I want to give you a few principles that might help, and I want to encourage you to do a little homework before you choose a group.
1. Make sure they are economically reputable. Believe it or not, there are organizations out there that will use pictures of starving little children to get you to give, yet the money never really gets where it is supposed to go. The only children that get fed with your money are their kids at Chuck E. Cheese, and the only homes built are mansions for themselves. If you are unsure of an organization, do a little homework to make sure they are good managers of the money sent, and that the money gets to the people intended. One way to check on this is to determine if the organization has submitted themselves to some form of accountability. For example, they might be a part of a group such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (www.ecfa.org).
2. Find out their core beliefs. Not every organization that calls themselves “Christian” holds to the core beliefs of the historic Christian faith. There are a multitude of great causes, and some very good organizations. Find out if an organization believes in the authority of the Bible. See if they point to Jesus as the answer for life. Discover if they believe Jesus is the only way to know God. This is exactly what John is speaking of in 1 John 3:18 when he says to love in truth, that our love ought to point people to Jesus. It is possible to send money to a group with a good heart, and actually be supporting a cause that will turn people away from Jesus and God by teaching false things about Him.
3. Is the organization seeking to share the Gospel? Meeting physical needs is important. Make no bones about it, we need to be involved in feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, healing the broken and sick. Still, all of these are temporal needs. If a person does not follow Jesus, meeting their physical and psychological needs is a temporal band-aid. Before giving to an organization, find out if they have a desire to share the Gospel and lead the people they serve to become followers of Jesus. I am not saying that an organization should be pushy, nor that they should require people to become Christians to receive help. Just the contrary, they should love all, serve all, and help all. Just while they are doing it they should live and share the Gospel.
One last note about whether an organization should be “Christian”. Some groups are choosing not to identify themselves as “Christian”, because to do so might alienate some people and keep the hurting from receiving service from the organization. To Write Love on Her Arms holds this position. This makes a lot of sense. It may be that a hurting person will avoid a group because of a label. I do not think we should be concerned about the label, but the mission of the group. Whether or not they consider themselves “Christian” in terms of their label, do they love Jesus and do they have a desire to share Him? If so, the label doesn’t matter.
To close this blog, I want to share the websites we referenced this past Sunday. Each group, as far as I can tell, is solid financially, is based on solid beliefs, and wants to share Jesus.
Compassion.com – The website of Compassion International, providing the opportunity to sponsor a child. Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, physical, economic and social poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
Mochaclub.org – A program of the African Leadership Council, a Christian organization that seeks to plant churches, minister to orphans, and care for those living with AIDS. They challenge Christians to give up two mocha’s a month ($7) to make a difference.
Twloha.com – To Write Love on Her Arms uses a wonderful story as a challenge to touch those impacted by depression and suicide.
AnnieArmstrong.com – Mission efforts of Southern Baptists to reach North America with the love of Jesus. We will be collecting a missions offering during April.