I was just trying to go up an escalator. Somehow, I ended up sandwiched between two groups of protestors.
They were waving their signs, beating drums and making a general wreck out of the whole place. In front of me were the anti-capitalists protesting the pharmaceutical companies. Behind me were the sex workers fighting for the legalization of their trade. On both sides, many were infected with HIV or AIDS.
I was attending the International AIDS Conference—hardly the place one might expect to find a conservative, evangelical Christian from Liberty University.
Caught in this crowded mayhem, it occurred to me that this was exactly the place where Jesus would have chosen to be. He seemed to hang out with a lot of people inflicted with leprosy—and AIDS is the leprosy of our time. It seemed only logical: If Jesus was walking around Planet Earth today, He would be helping lots of sick people.
You see, Jesus wasn’t a clean-cut Savior.
He didn’t exactly fit the mold of a high-handed religious leader. He was more of an “in the trenches” type of Savior. He was the God with dirty hands—helping the rest of us out of our own mess.
And, craziest of all, He didn’t have to be. He chose to be.
As God, Jesus could have assumed any earthly persona He wanted. He could have arrived in a center-city aristocratic family and gathered to Himself a dream team of young, budding scholars.
Instead, He chose to sleep His first night on earth in a feeding trough. He chose to live in an average Middle Eastern village—Nazareth—with a few hundred people. And He chose a vagabond group of disciples who weren’t exactly those we’d vote “most likely to succeed.” Perhaps He thought humanity would be more likely to follow a God who looked a little more like them.
Jesus, by His life example, showed us how to live ours. He gave us a model—and a responsibility—to continue the work He started in healing this broken world.
If we’re honest, we haven’t always helped as we should. Just look at the world in its unnecessary distress. We, who have the responsibility of healing this world, have been too preoccupied far too often.
It’s time we move into the trenches.
Each of us can do a little more to make this world a better place, and we should do it now. We can raise the banner higher for the causes burdening us. We can give a little money to those in need. Better yet, we can ruthlessly war against our selfish sense of entitlement and give more of ourselves in service of others.
Having received grace from God, through Jesus, we ought to be the first to give it to the world in a thousand small ways every day.
We can give grace by being kind to those who are cruel to us, by anonymously dropping an envelope with cash on the desk of a single mom, by tutoring underprivileged children or by lending our free time to fight injustice. We can sponsor children in Africa or make it a point to do something kind for those we know are having a hard time.
On the other hand, we could cover our eyes, close our ears and act like everything is OK. We could be content to be recipients of the kindness of God and deny that same kindness to others. But by withholding this grace from others, we hurt further those who are already hurting.
A pastor in Rwanda once told me, “My impression of America is that a very good Christian is a very serious theologian. Here, we have to live our faith, too.”
Living our faith isn’t something done from an ivory tower. It requires us to roll up our sleeves and follow Jesus into the trenches.
This world is filled with more than 1 billion Christians. It is also filled with a thousand forms of brokenness. If each of us did a little more in a world flooded with pain, healing would soon break its banks.
Johnnie Moore is author of Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and vice president and campus pastor at Liberty University. He is also on the board of World Help.