I met Mr. Balentine in the summer of 1993. A group of 10 high school students and their leaders had been sent to Mr. Balentine's to make much-needed repairs to his house, which sat in a secluded cove of the Appalachian foothills. What started as a simple project turned into a major rebuild. The only thing keeping the front wall attached the house was a thin layer of shingles overhead. The entire house had to be razed and rebuilt.
At the end of the project, Mr. Balentine walked into his "new" home. Tears in his eyes, he remarked that his family could finally return and all live together. His words are forever etched in my memory: "You've not only restored my house, you've restored my dignity."
That summer and many mission trips later have opened my eyes to the hurting and neglected neighbors who live near and far. We live in a broken world. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, creation and humanity were scarred. Enter broken relationships. Deceit. Hunger. Corruption. Poverty. Disease. Envy. War. These are only a few of the manifestations of our broken world. But God is in the restoration business.
God did whatever it took to make things right between us and Him, ultimately giving His Son as a ransom for our very lives. God broke through the ceiling between heaven and earth. His Son lowered Himself to live among us only to be raised up on a cross. He took the burden of every sin—past, present, and future—and burdened Himself for our sake. Through a relationship with Him, we are restored and made right with God.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, He proved there's no wound He can't heal. There's no brokenness He can't mend. The gospel has the power to transform lives. This life-transforming gospel compels us to share God's love with our words and moves us to minister through our actions.
Christ's command to love others includes—but is not limited to—caring about and providing for the physical well being of those He places in our sphere of influence. With Jesus as our model, we care for others—we love our neighbors—by meeting them at their point of need and ministering to them physically and spiritually.
I am often blown away when I see the church being the hands and feet of Christ: The couple that creates margin in their lives for one more adoption. The small group that helps carry the burden of a spouse lost to cancer. The congregation that adopts an underserved community.
But there is much more we can do.
There are many more people like Mr. Balentine who need a love they can see—a love that can provide a new home and a new heart. They need to know about a Savior whose healing goes way beyond a fresh coat of paint, a roof over their heads, or a sack full of groceries.
I can promise that not far from you is a field rife with hurt but white unto harvest. This truly is the land of opportunity. An opportunity to love your neighbor as yourself.