Last night I walked down 14th Street NW, past Columbia Ave where a police car was parked, blocking entry to the street; and I watched people milling about, heading home after work. A wave of emotion hit me like a sucker-punch as I wondered how many of them knew that they were walking past the place where, two nights previously, nine year-old Oscar Fuentes was shot and killed.
I whispered a prayer for Oscar’s grieving family, and as I did so, I was reminded with startling clarity of a few of the reasons I do what I do:
Because I believe that the God I serve weeps over every life that is lost—including a nine year-old boy named Oscar Fuentes—I live and work for a world where every person is valued and honored for the image of God within him or her, regardless of how smudged and tainted this image has become (Genesis 1-3).
Because I believe that when Jesus told us to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth—of which the evidence would be God’s will done on earth as in heaven (Matthew 6:10)—he wanted us to envision a world where there are no more tears, where mourning and crying and pain are no more (Revelation 21), I seek to live and work with the Spirit who is already at work in our world to see this come to pass, as elusive and impossible as this may be this side of Christ’s return.
Because I believe that day of the Lord—when nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4)—was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus, I live and work for a world characterized by a peace that is not simply an absence of violence and war but a wholeness of relationships with God, with others, with oneself, and with creation.
Because I believe that the redemption and salvation that came with Jesus Christ are not just a personal gift but a calling to a life that places others before ourselves (Philippians 2), I live and work for a world in which those who have not and cannot experience the many freedoms that I have may know those same freedoms.
“How long, O Lord?” the psalmists lament on many, many, many occasions. And for good reason: we live in the interim between Christ’s resurrection and his return, in the painful in-between. There remains much that is broken and sin-stained, and often we groan with creation as we hope for the promises to come (Romans 8).
But when I start feeling paralyzed by the sheer size of the challenges facing those of us who seek to live out the kingdom of God on earth, when I start wondering why I’m doing what I’m doing, when I get a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that are in need of repair and redemption, I look at the picture of Oscar Fuentes, newly stuck up on my wall next to pictures of my nieces and nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years.
I remember that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to save us all (John 3:16-17), that we might have life abundantly (John 10:10), and in this blessing we might carry out the ancient commission to be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-3). And I remember why I do what I do.
“From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)