The call of Christian faith is, above all else, a call to love and serve our neighbor. Time and again Jesus bids his hearers to consider how they act in relationship to others, and to the world that God so loves. From the LORD reminding us in the story of Cain and Abel that in fact yes, we are our brother’s keeper, to James teaching that faith without acts of care toward the needy is no faith at all, Scripture is full of examples of how we are called to live in love toward our neighbor.
At Family Promise this love is expressed primarily through actions rather than through words. Family Promise does not sponsor worship services or Bible studies – that is the beautiful call and unique ministry of congregations. As a service organization founded by people of diverse faith backgrounds, we offer temporary shelter, food, and assistance in finding affordable housing for families. That is, we seek to provide care for the basic human needs that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 28, and James speaks about in James 2. As a Christian and a pastor, I understand that faith motivates and demands my service.
I also know that my life is meant to be a witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. When I serve at Family Promise, I do so because of my Christian faith. If a family member receiving hospitality at my church wants to talk about faith, I’m ready to listen to their situation and to bear witness to Christ. Yet I know that they may have an experience of faith, or a faith tradition, altogether different than mine. I also know that I am not likely to have a long-term pastoral relationship with this person.
In obedience to Christ I listen, offer care, and speak words of faith and promise to them. If they want a book or a Bible, spiritual guidance or the name of a church they might attend, I will help them in that regard – for Paul reminds me that I am to put their needs before my own. They may need a church of a different tradition than mine, or one with a different kind of pastor than me. In Christian love I honor who they are and how the Spirit is moving in their life.
Otherwise, when I serve with Family Promise I do so with fewer words of faith than with actions of faith. The families are often tired when they come to church at night. They often need food, rest, and privacy. In obedience to my Lord, that is what I seek to offer. And through this faithful work, I trust that my light – that God’s light – is shining before others.