Love doesn’t cost a thing
Are we more willing to open our wallets than our hearts? By Anneke Jagau
One of my first student jobs in the Netherlands was working as a fundraiser for a big international development organization. My job was to ‘attack’ people on their stroll through the mall with graphic images of poverty. Swollen bellies, torn clothes, desperate eyes. The kinds of disturbing, stomach-twisting images that have frequently been used by non-profit organisations to stir up emotion and full the fundraising coffers.
My favourite people to ‘attack’ were those with burgers, milkshakes or any other kind of fast-food in their hands. I would play the guilt trick by asking them if they knew how much they could do for someone living in poverty with the money from that drink or burger. I would tell them, holding my placard, that if they could afford to spend their money on expensive fast-food, they could surely afford to give 5 euros to help someone in the developing world. Often they would sign up, generally just to get rid of me or get rid of their guilt.
I’ve since learnt that this kind of approach is neither honouring of the people we’re trying to help or the people we’re trying to get the help from, but it often comes back to me as an example of how, as a society, we’ve become obsessed with ‘quick fixes’. ‘Let’s throw money at the problem and hopefully it’ll go away’ seems to be the underlying school of thought.
This morning I was reading the story about how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and something in the story really struck me. Jesus went down and got His hands dirty to clean people’s dusty, calloused feet. He probably could have hired someone to do it for him. (In those days of sandals and long walks on dirt roads there were probably professional foot cleaners!) If He had done that, His disciples feet would have been cleaned, but it would not have conveyed the message that He wanted to send through this act. That His love for us is the servant-hearted, on the floor, pouring out your life kind of love.
Jesus asked for radical love when He told us to love the people around us. And that kind of love is not for sale. Sure, there are lots of good organizations that need your money. And it’s important to give generously, but that’s not where it ends. Giving your money is only the starting point of a very exciting journey. A journey where you get to walk a road with people.
A road that will teach you that the girl with the gorgeous smile in the photo isn’t just orphan #235 but that her name is Alexandra and that nobody loves reading the Dr. Seuss books more than she does. You couldn’t have learned that by giving money to buy books for the children’s home where Alexandra is living. You learned that because you took the time to read Alexandra a bed time story. And by doing that you showed her that she mattered. You showed her that she is loved. Just as Jesus showed his disciples by washing their feet. And just as he showed us by dying for our sins.
The radical kind of love that Jesus wants from us is expensive. After all, He payed the ultimate price for us on the cross. What price are we willing to pay?
– Anneke is a trained midwife from the Netherlands who now lives in Cape Town with her husband where she is involved in research to improve mother and child health in developing countries. She is a member of the Common Ground Wynberg congregation.