. . . I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. . .
I have my books. And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor, Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.
God hasn't designed us to live like this. We are called to minister to those of whom society and unfortunately much of the church has chosen to ignore.
We discovered in Matt. 17 that living an effective kingdom lifestyle has a vertical dimension of spending time with Christ through prayer. In Matt. 18, we learn it also has a horizontal dimension of accountable relationships with hurting people where we become personally involved (Matt. 18:1-5). A child is any helpless person. Rather than being an island or rock, you humble yourself by welcoming anyone, including the poor and disenfranchised, into your life.
In order to minister to the "least of these," you must deal harshly with your personal sin so you don't cause others to stumble and cause their ruin (Matt. 18:6-9).
"Does your hand, offend you, the hand raised in anger or grasping at money? Does your foot offend you, the places it takes you to and the Christian service it declines to undertake? Does your eye offend you--the ever-unsatisfied eye of the consumer society? Be single minded! Deal ruthlessly with whatever cause you to stumble in your walk with Christ in the body of His church."[i]
Not only addressing our personal sin, we must not look down on anyone. Give each person the benefit of the doubt, otherwise we build up walls, hinder trust and reduce opportunity for ministry (Matt. 18:10-11).
How can your wrong attitudes cause poor and disenfranchised people to sin or lose hope? If we don't help meet basic needs or equip them to be self-sufficient, they may steal or do illegal activity to make ends meet or maintain their addiction. We create major stumbling blocks to their self esteem by judging, looking down on them or not accepting them unconditionally.
Pray and search for prodigal believers who have wandered away from the faith (Matt. 18:12-14). Many young people have been hurt by hypocrisy in the church and deeply offended by the ungodly attitudes addressed in Matt. 18.
Lovingly confront believers in sin through a four-step process so they can be restored to fellowship in the church through repentance: share one-on-one about the sin, bring two or three witnesses if they don't listen, tell it to the church and if they refuse to listen and confess their sin, then treat them as an unbeliever (Matt. 18:15-17).
Is there a believer you know who is in sin? Write down their name and begin to pray for them. During this coming week, "you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
We forgive a sinning brother unconditionally because of the depth of Christ's forgiveness for our sins (Matt. 18:21-35). Since Christ took the initiative to reach out to us, we should do the same by forgiving unconditionally those who have sinned against us (Rom. 56-8).
Who is God calling you to reach out to? Consider the following categories:
1. Someone struggling to make ends meet who require instruction to become self-sufficient.
2. Prodigal believer who walked away from their faith because of hurt they experienced in the church.
3. Believer in sin who needs a loving confrontation.
4. Forgiving someone from the heart who sinned or offended you. If they are aware of your resentment, you should go and ask forgiveness from them.
[i] The New American Commentary, pgs. 274-275