I often get asked what makes Christianity different from other religions. I agree with the simple answer CS Lewis gave: Grace. Grace is the “free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from Him” (Webster’s 1828 dictionary). It is God’s grace that makes all the difference in the world. I see grace on full display in the cross of Christ.
Psalm 12:5 says, “‘Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise’, says the Lord, ‘I will protect them from those who malign them.’” It is hard to read passages like this without asking the question, “Who are the needy?” The easy answers are the poor, orphans, widows, the sick, and prisoners. But we often overlook the other needy people: the outcasts, the unpopular, the neglected, those who are left out, homely, last, and others.
If you have ever found yourself in one of those groups, I have good news! God loves you. His grace is available for you. He desires to have a relationship with you. When you are in Christ, you are no longer poor, alone, an outcast, unpopular, or last. You will never be neglected by the love of God.
Listen to these words from God:
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor” (1 Samuel 2:8).
“The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (Job 5:11).
“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4).
“Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6).
And there is Christ, who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Who doesn’t need rest? If you have ever felt that there is no way God can love you because of something you have done in the past, or something you are doing right now, you are mistaken. God does love you. He may not love what you are doing, but He loves you. He wants you to run to Him because He is gentle and humble in heart.
For those of you who have ever looked down on the needy, or walked past them, shame on you. Shame on me, because I have done that, and more. God has just as much love for the needy as he does for the self-righteous. Tim Keller said this, “Those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.”
My prayer is for all of us to realize our own neediness and run to Jesus. On our way, let us reach out our hands and hearts to our fellow needy citizens. Jesus’ yoke is light and he promises rest. Amen.
*First published in the Chappell Register on May 1, 2014.