In Luke 7, there is a great story about Jesus raising to life the dead son of a widow from a village called Nain. By Luke's account, Jesus has just finished teaching the great sermon on the mount (or level place) and was going through the local villages and towns. As he passed through Nain, he saw a dead person being carried out of the town gate. This dead person was the only son of his mother and she was a widow. When Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."
He then went up and touched the coffin and said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" Then, to the amazement of all present and the obvious rapture of his grieving mother, the young dead man sat up, began to talk and Jesus, Luke says, gave him back to his mother.
A number of things strike me about this story in relation to the Kingdom of God. For one, the compassion of Christ for one who had lost so much. "His heart went out to her..." Second, the authority of Jesus to say to the dead young man, "...I say to you,get up!" and then the great gift made as He, "...gave him back to his mother."
But the thing that intrigues me the most is the reaction of the crowd of on-lookers. "They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has come to help his people.'"
"God has come to help his people." When we minister to people physically in the name of Jesus, the whole goal should be to point people to the Father and His Son, Jesus. When we respond to a disaster event in Japan, a chronic hunger problem in sub-Saharan Africa, an urban slum and its needs in a mega-city in India, our goal to have the people whom we minister to say, "God has come to help his people!"
A mentor of mine always taught me that when we are finished working in a community with our development projects, the highest praise from the local people is that they do not build a statue to us, but rather give glory to God.
Jesus used compassion and life touching ministries to point people to the Kingdom and to God. Our compassion ministries and demonstration of the gospel through acts of kindness should ultimately be about making His kingdom and the King Himself known.
What do people see and say when we help them in their hour of need? Do they applaud us or do they see that through us, God has come to help them? More importantly, what do we do to make sure that they don't applaud us but see God's Kingdom and His fingerprints in our acts of service and ministry to them?
It's a good question...