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Read Tim Keller's outline of "Wholistic Ministry" and the Biblical call of the church to minister in both word and deeds of mercy and justice.
Watch our workshop on "How to Care for our Homeless Neighbors," outlining practical ways to serve our homeless neighbors and connect them to resources.
Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road
Dr. Tim Keller
|Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just
Dr. Tim Keller
|When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor... and Yourself
To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City
Mark R. Gornik
BY ROBERT CALABRETTA
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
In this passage, we see parents bringing their children to Jesus with the desire that their children might be blessed, remain healthy, and live good lives. We shouldn’t necessarily read any “Christian” motives in these parents. Yet, much to the disciples’ surprise, (and perhaps ours,) these are exactly the people Jesus welcomes into His midst, and even points to as exemplars of those who would share in “the good life” of His Kingdom!
Whenever I read this passage, I’m reminded of many of the parents I interact with in my neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. The neighborhood has historically been a symbol of freedom and opportunity for immigrant families. It is the site of New York City’s first public high school, as well as the first proclamation of religious freedom in America.
Even today, Main Street in Flushing and the blocks beyond it continue to serve as a city of hope for an incredible diversity of cultures and peoples. More than 57 percent of residents in the neighborhood are foreign-born, many of whom have left their native lands in search of the potential for “the good life” for their children.
The immigrant community in Flushing (and across New York City) faces unique challenges when it comes to raising children. One example is what some have termed satellite babies, those children who are born in the U.S., but sent back to their parents’ native country to be raised by relatives until the age of five or six, at which age they return to live and attend school with their parents back in the U.S.
This practice leads to bonding issues and disruption to family dynamics in an already challenging situation where families are learning a new language, struggling with the rising cost of rent and subsequent overcrowded housing, trying to gain citizenship, among other challenges.
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I’ve had the chance to “walk alongside” my neighbors by volunteering once a week at an after-school program in the neighborhood. As I sit and talk and work with these precious children, stories emerge. Stories like that of a girl who came to join her parents who had been working here in the States while she lived with relatives for the first seven years of her life. She shared how difficult it was for her and her parents to relate to one another, as well as how she struggled adjusting to a new culture, city, school, and language.
God has allowed our church, King’s Cross Church, to come alongside those in our community with the driving force of the gospel as seen in Luke 18. We are able to share with our neighbors about Jesus, the One who sees all of our yearning and seeking that we bring to Him and graciously assures us that He will enfold us into His saving arms and never refuse to give of His great love and all that we truly need—namely, Himself.
However, there’s also a part in this text directly pointed at us, the Church. Jesus is commanding his disciples, and thus his Church, to consider the needs at hand and not meet them with a heart of rebuke, but a heart of welcome and hospitality. “Let them come…do not hinder them…”
There is a time and place for rebuke, but if you notice, it’s aimed at the disciples, not those struggling and crushed under the burden of life! The Church is rebuked, the people are welcomed, and children are blessed with the loving presence of Christ Himself. Could that be what we need to hear today?
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Consider the following:
Pray for Flushing:
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Robert Calabretta came to know Christ during his college years and received his Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary. Both he and his wife love the Flushing community and are thrilled to be a part of what God is doing in their neighborhood. He serves as the site pastor for King’s Cross Church.
Lead image by Paul Sableman.