Harry came to Oxford having spent eight months living with the St Stephen’s Society in Hong Kong. Their work is dedicated to serving the poor, supporting those who are recovering from drug addictions and supporting teenagers who have come out of prison. While he was there he decided that he ultimately wanted his life to be one laid down for the poor and marginalized. Here are five things he has learnt about living a laid down life since arriving in the city…
- Before anything else lay down your life to relationship with Jesus
I have been discovering (slowly), that laying down my life down is not about me, or how much outreach I do, or how effective I am; instead it seems to be about laying my life down to a relationship with Jesus. An amazing challenge from 1 John 5v7 is that “His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world”. At the same time as asking us to ‘take up our cross’ to follow him, Jesus promises us that we can come to him because his burden is light. At the centre of our desire and commitment to see justice we have a friend who carries every burden, in our own hearts and those we are trying to serve.
- God likes to show us the poverty within our own lives
Therefore it is unsurprising that I found God challenging me to spend lots of time with him each day, often just praying and letting him minister to me. Oxford life makes this particularly difficult because it is so busy. However I’ve found if we want to look after the poor and seek justice, God likes to show us the poverty within our own lives, which could be spiritually, emotionally, financially; and therefore demonstrating how dependent we are on him. This gives us the right attitude for serving others. Jesus really wants our time!
- Worshipping God and seeking justice are inseparable
This leads onto my next thought, which is that in the same way that worshipping Jesus while ignoring the poor around you is not right, if you want to share Jesus with the poor you need to worship! For a long time I felt that ministering with the poor was my work and not God’s work. As a result, I felt that in comparison with outreach, time spent in prayer and worship was a waste. What I didn’t understand was that God understands and feels injustice so much more deeply than me, and that it’s him who is able to transform situations and bring hope. Worshipping God and seeking justice are inseparable.
- Remember Jesus’ example
I’ve learnt that laying your life down is really challenging. Its often confusing and unclear; things don’t work out, you can feel like you’re wasting your time and being challenged to present yourself as a living sacrifice isn’t always fun. But I find it helpful to remember that Jesus would have gone so much further for me, and so our response should be to surrender our lives, choosing to put our trust in him, again and again! And then when breakthrough does come and lives are changed, it’s the best news.
- We receive as much as we give
Living a life laid down is something we’re not meant to do alone. The poor we serve have so much more to offer us compared to what we feel we have to offer them. A really important thing to remember is that we are just as broken and needy as they are, but we can lay our lives down to Jesus together. I found that once I was vulnerable with my friends and admitted that I really wasn’t good at living a life laid down, we were able to support each other and keep going.