Finding Joy in Sacrificial Love
by Chris Cashen, Refugee Evangelist in Clarkston, GA
As we are now in the Christmas season, many are turning their thoughts to serving, giving and mercy. This, then, is a wonderful time to encourage Christians to get involved in refugee ministry - which is chock full of serving and giving. In fact, as some write about refugee ministry, they remind us that Jesus Himself was, in a sense, a refugee as He fled from Herod. Just prior to His flight, our Lord was ministered to by the magi - who give us a sense of the central object of our ministry to refugees.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2 ESV).
While not meeting Jesus as a refugee, these were directly serving Christ as worshipers. They help us to see the kind of service we can offer to our new neighbors from foreign lands, as well as our attitude as we give of ourselves.
The privilege of serving: The wise men had the great privilege of serving the Lord Jesus. They had the time, the funds, the camels, to serve. God had equipped them to serve. He had given these magi not only the funding, but also the ability to understand and interpret the appearance of the star. And then the Lord gave them the desire to follow and to search out this divine child. God graciously gave them the privilege of serving Christ. We certainly see that they recognized this privilege as they rejoice in finding the Child. As my wife and I conclude our time in Clarkston, GA we consider that this was a unique, and thus a privileged, time of serving Jesus Christ. He clearly gave us all that we needed and sustained us during each and every aspect of our work. The Lord equipped us for this privilege and provided the open doors. At times, we are tempted to reflect on serving or giving as a burden. In actuality, the privilege of serving others in general, and refugees in particular, is the great privilege of serving our risen Lord Jesus. Not all are given this opportunity of serving the King. As those saved by the shed blood of Christ, we should relish the opportunity and privilege of serving.
The sacrifice of serving: As Jesus clearly explains in His Word, there is a cost to serving. We see it in the magi as they took time away from their homes, families, friends and magi work to pursue serving - or worshiping - the Christ Child. Certainly these men brought costly and precious gifts to set before the One that they sought to serve. The magi even sacrificed their “relationship” with Herod to keep the Word of God - and returned home by another way. We see an even greater sacrifice as the Son of God condescended to take on human flesh and appear before men. We see it as Jesus was mocked and scourged. We see it as our Lord went to the cross and suffered. Refugee ministry uniquely, and in some ways, exclusively, enables those serving to engage in sacrificial service to Christ. To truly help those who have lost material possessions, daily interaction with lifelong friends and family, and their home countries, there is a pouring-out of self into these new and needy relationships. Serving comes at inconvenient times and, every so often, seems all consuming - kind of like the journey the magi endured to serve Jesus. Kind of like the precious gifts they brought and set before this One they worshiped. And yet, this is the type of service that our Savior calls us to as His followers. And it was this kind of service which - much more than helping our new neighbors - molded and shaped my heart, and that of my wife, to be more and more like Jesus Christ. This is what refugee ministry does to us - it changes us and conforms us to be more like Him.
The joy of serving: But while the serving was sacrificial, it was joyful. As the magi approached Bethlehem, seeing and being guided by the star, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10 ESV). Even as their journey was likely difficult and exhausting, in their service, as they approached the Person of their service, they were so joyful. It was hard, but yet they were rejoicing with “great joy”. As we look back upon the years spent in Clarkston, there were certainly times of exhaustion in serving. And yet there was joy. We found the joy not always in the response of the particular people we sought to serve, but in the truth that we were serving Jesus - the One who had gone to the cross for us, saved us and loves us. This then was, in my opinion, the greatest lesson and the greatest joy. While ministry to refugees is a sacrificial privilege, as we remember and meditate upon the truth that in every ride given to a medical appointment, in every immigration form completed, in every English class taught and child tutored, and in every bag of rice delivered, Jesus was being served (“as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” Matthew 25:40 ESV). And that is a joyful truth and reality! As we leave Clarkston, we are joyful in knowing that the work will continue - that Christ will continue to be served as the session and members of Redeemer OPC in Atlanta continue to love and minister to their new neighbors.