As I was watching this TED talk the other day, I got to thinking about compassion and giving within Christian communities. I’ve seen many wonderful examples from individuals, groups, churches, and organizations.
When giving as a Christian, you don’t do it involuntarily or automatically, and you avoid giving out of obligation. Giving as a Christian is our response to the infinitely good gift that was given to us. You give out of love and gratitude, because you cannot help but give. It’s a form of worship.
Depending on where their passion is, Christians will give differently. Some prefer to give to their neighbors, because it’s an obvious way to watch the effects of your gift. Others have a passion for their communities and want to improve the quality of those communities. Still others prefer to give nationally and others overseas to missionaries, foundations, and more. Overseas (but non-missionary) giving is very popular with certain people and many secular groups but hasn’t hit widespread popularity among Christians.
I want to make a case for giving overseas, not necessarily for direct mission work, but for improving the health, economy, and overall quality of life in another country. Working to improve the quality of life overseas is not just a way to have an over-inflated sense of self-esteem or to avoid feeling guilty about privilege. It is a legitimate redemptive act.
The healings and miracles that Jesus performed come to mind immediately. Whether or not you agree that those occurred, you cannot deny the Bible’s portrayal of the compassion that He demonstrated toward others and the quality that he brought to others’ lives.
While His primary purpose was to redeem men from the penalty of death that comes as consequence of sin, He was not so myopic that He did not see the sufferings of man. His ministry and His healings were focused, but He still saw it a good and right thing to heal others, though His transformations usually took place on a physical and a spiritual level.
As Christians are to be imitators of Christ, out of gratitude and a desire to be like the One who has given us so much, we are here to participate in redemptive acts, both big and small. I would argue that improving health and conditions for others in other countries would not only affect us individually and nationally because of the butterfly effect, but that it’s also included in our calling. It’s not feel-good philanthropy or a solution to guilt, but rather a genuine desire to have a small response of gratitude to the gifts that were given to us.