Today marks a strange and rare occurance in America. The government is in a partial shutdown for the first time in nearly 18 years.
But you know this by now. At this point, there are few who don’t know that this is happening. However, many don’t fully understand what it means. Life has continued on for most as it always has. But life has come to a stand still for many of the 800,000 “non-essential” government workers who were told to go home or not come in today.
The bickering on Capitol Hill is disturbing despite which side your find yourself on for the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” as it has become known. This is an embarrassment on a global scale. Even Syria, in the midst of a civil war, has continued to pay its bills. This is not a time of great pride in our great country.
Despite all of this, a unique opportunity has arisen for Christians everywhere. We can respond in a way that shows this country, this world, the love of God.
This time can activitate the giving heart of the Church. Many local Bodies are ahead of the curve in this, but others have no idea where to start. Many people are confused and unsure of what’s next, but the Church has an unfailing hope. We should always show it, but it’s in times like these where something beautiful can awaken in those who know Jesus and in those who do not know Jesus.
Here are 4 ways for us as Christians, as the Church, to respond to the shutdown:
Pray for the leaders of this country and the people who are hurt by this
This should be the no. 1 action on every Christian’s “list” right now. This should be continuous for us. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the men and women who will not agree. We need to ask God to intervene in the lives of the people who are hurt by that lack of agreement.
We all have opinions, and that is great. That is a wonderful part of humanity. What cannot happen, though, especially in the Church, is for the opinions to cause disunity among us and cause us to ignore what it seems is currently being ignored in Washington: People.
God loves people. We need to love people right now and ask God to intervene at this time.
Ask your local church if there is anything you can do for those in need
Giving is, at times, sacrificial. We cannot be so materialistic that we look at what we have and not want to give to the one who has none. Sometimes, God even asks us to give all we have to the one who has none. And at a time when people will be going to work without any guarantee of pay, there is an opportunity for some of us to offer help.
It is so important to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, because He tells us what makes sense to God, not us.
The leaders in your local church should have a solid grasp of the general needs of your community. If they don’t, find a local church that does have a good grasp of those needs and ask what you can give/do.
Being a pastor, I see that our local body often has more needs come to our attention than the provisions to meet those needs. This isn’t completely out of sheer number, it’s also because of the poverty mentality that so many of us possess. The concept of giving or helping is so foreign to so many. We have to open our eyes to the needs around us. The pleasure of helping others is something that we can ALL do.
You can give resources, pastors can put you to work, or you can be given tips and advice on how to help those around you. If the shutdown continues, those government employees on furlough may need financial assistance, and even if it doesn’t, they could probably use your encouragement and support.
Don’t wait for your local church or community organization to organize something
I know this kind of contradicts what is written above, but hear me out. Sometimes, we really embrace being sheep. Whether it is witnessing, social justice or even fun, we generally wait for someone else to organize something.
This isn’t completely terrible. Some people have no idea where to start. In that case, yes, contact these places to see what is happening. However, do not ignore the fact that the very best weapon against the injustices around you is you.
Some local churches will definitely have a good handle on the general needs of the community. But you also have a great handle on the needs around you. You have family, friends and neighbors that a local body doesn’t always know about.
Don’t wait to see what organizations are doing. Don’t say to yourself, “Someone should do something to help.” The Church is people, not a place. You are the Church. Go help the people around you.
Don’t let this be isolated
Needs will always be around. Jesus said that we’ll always have the poor with us. It’s the nature of being on this planet.
What we can do is not simply rise to a national occasion of need, but always be available to meet needs. In any time of uncertainty, the Church should be at the forefront of helping and offering hope. Not simply for publicity, but because it’s what we should have been doing all along.
We should always be helping meet needs. Let this time of uncertainty be a wakeup call to understand that we are not to rise to the occasion like it’s some special thing. There is always an occasion. There are always needs. If you do something during this time, don’t let the next public crisis be the next time you do something.
We are the Church, and we should bring hope to the world. Whether that is salvation or meeting a need, don’t see it as simply “rising to the occasion” right now. Do what we should have been doing all along: Loving people.
Carl is the husband of a beautiful wife, daddy to two great kids and owner of a dog named Perry. He loves on young adults as a pastor at The Freedom Center in Fenton, Mich. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter or Wordpress.