By faith he (Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrew 11:9 – 10, 13 – 16
Kim Schuster. September 26, 2011.
As I’ve pondered a few recent conversations, I can’t help but think of how important the lack of “ownership” in this world is to our ability to serve others. The quote above is from a section of the Bible often referred to as the Hall of Faith. It summarizes key points in the lives of people who sought God’s purposes above their own and were recognized for having more faith than many of their peers. They may not have always achieved the perception of being rewarded in this world, but they had their view focussed on another world that had God as it’s architect.
Yesterday someone posted in a Facebook community forum a request for people to be on the look out for a vehicle that was involved in a hit-and-run accident with her father. (Thankfully, her father was fine.) It was interesting how quickly the conversation in the comments turned to speculation about the socio-economic status of the person who hit her father’s car. Our section of Indianapolis has many upper-middle class neighborhoods, but there are pockets of lower-middle working-class neighborhoods dispersed throughout the area as well. Posts of this nature are often met with a course of replies about how bad the community is getting as more people from the urban core move here. I often find myself distressed by these comments, because I know so many good people who feel unwelcomed by this.
As I read through this thread, though, I noticed a trend. Many of the people complaining about the bad element in our community (one in particular) felt justified in their response because they had experienced loss or knew someone who experienced loss at the hands of another. When we have experienced loss at the hands of someone who fits a certain stereotype in our mind, it’s easy to become jaded in our attitude toward “those people.” The only way to avoid being hardened to others is to have an open-handed attitude toward all possessions. It’s only then that we can fully be open to blessing others even when the risk is high that we may suffer loss in the process. Otherwise, it’s totally understandable to become suspicious of others whenever a problem arises.
Abraham lost much in his quest to fulfill God’s purpose of seeing all people groups blessed through his descendents. He lost his homeland. He lost contact with most of his family over time. He lived as a nomad in a land he knew his descendants would eventually posses. He had items stolen many times. Still, he walked with grace toward his neighbors, knowing that God had higher purposes in mind.
It takes the perspective of Abraham to keep an open hand toward all our neighbors when we know that there will be times we suffer loss as “reward” for caring. It takes keeping in our view the realization that our eventual home is a heavenly city “whose designer and builder is God,” even as we seek to be fully vested in the community around us for the sake of His purposes. This requires faith. And this is not easy.