What if there were aspects of the incarnation — God being in the world in a physical way — that included us today? As we begin Lent this year, pastor Greg Holder reflects on World Vision’s Matthew 25 Challenge and how it helped his church make God’s love an action.
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“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” —1 John 3:18
These tender but blunt words remind us that love cannot be an abstract idea we only talk about. We have to do something in this world — something tangible. This is what we long for: love that is present, love that shows up, love that expresses itself in costly and concrete ways.
As Christians, ours is a life of faith. Life with God is beyond the reassurance of what we can see with our own eyes and touch with our own hands. But God, in his infinite mercy, knew we also needed something tangible.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. …” —John 1:14
God physically entered the mess of our world. This is how he makes things right. This is how he makes things new. And this is how he reminds us that we are not alone. This is the beauty of the incarnation.
And, in some ways, now it’s our turn.
The struggle against injustice, exploitation, fear, and brokenness is real. Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “If only Jesus was here today, then the world would have a chance … then some of these problems would be addressed …”
But what if that wasn’t the plan? What if there were some aspects of the incarnation — God being in the world in a physical, flesh-and-blood way — that included us today?
That brings me to the Matthew 25 Challenge.
Last year, our church was privileged to partner with our good friends at World Vision for a week-long experience that made the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 come to life in new ways.
“… ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” —Matthew 25:40
The “least of these brothers and sisters” was not an overused, well-worn phrase. Throughout the week, those words became personal and real.
Conversations started at schools, in offices, around dinner tables, and across social media about the lives of others in far-off places. Through the power of technology and daily challenges, more than 4,000 people at The Crossing were connecting real faces and stories to Jesus’ words about the hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned.
But make no mistake, this challenge was not a gimmick. It was a journey into the heart of what Jesus says about loving and serving those who are hurting. At the end of the week, there was an invitation to step even further into the story.
When our church lobbies were full of families, college students, small groups, and friends choosing the child they would now sponsor, it carried more meaning. People were making this decision while being rooted in the words of Jesus.
Sponsoring a child wasn’t about guilt or pressure. It was about being image bearers and loving the least of these in physical, flesh-and-blood ways.
This is why partnerships with trusted organizations, like World Vision, are so important for churches.
When the body of Christ reaches into the world and touches a life, so does Jesus. It is one of the most powerful things we can do in this world — to love as we have been loved.
On that weekend, more than 700 sponsored children would be loved, served, and cared for in the great name of Jesus. But throughout the week, our entire church came together and considered once again what it means to love not only in words but also in action.
I can’t help but believe that the legacy of our involvement with the Matthew 25 Challenge will continue in ways we may never fully know. It’s worth your consideration this year.
It will change the world — and you — in a tangible way.
Greg Holder is a pastor, author, speaker, and storyteller. He is the lead pastor of The Crossing, a fast-growing multisite church with four campuses across the St. Louis area and a thriving online community. Greg is passionate about the local church and the belief that God designed us to thrive in a healthy community. His leadership and influence have taken him around the globe, helping communities, churches, pastors, and leaders work toward spiritual, relational, and organizational health. Greg is the author of The Genius of One, author and co-creator of Advent Conspiracy, and as a contributing writer for The Voice Bible, he translated the book of Jeremiah.