By Martin Willoughby
Occasionally when I am speaking or teaching a class, I will have the need to call on a volunteer. It is always interesting to watch how most people develop a sudden fascination with their shoelaces, watch, or smartphone. I can appreciate that. There have been many times I have been in that same position trying to avoid eye contact at all costs just hoping someone else would raise their hand to step forward to volunteer.
We live in a broken world and the needs are endless. I remember one church I attended used to list in the Sunday bulletin pressing areas where volunteers were needed both within the church and the community. It was easy to get numb to all those needs. We all have our own problems to deal with. Who has time? Because I am naturally inclined to be one of those people staring at my shoes when the call for help goes out, I am always impressed by those people who don’t flinch in the time of need. They step right in and fill the gaps and take action.
Our world would be a much different place if followers of Jesus had not raised their hand and challenged the status quo. In the ancient world, infanticide was not only permissible—it was encouraged. Christians who believed in the value of human life finally brought an end to that deplorable practice. It is believed that a Fifth-century monk named Telemachus helped bring an end to the bloody gladiator spectacles of the ancient world.
Throughout most of history, women were essentially the property of their husbands. It is hard to believe that it was not until 1920 that the 19th amendment to the Constitution was signed and women gained the right to vote. Even though there were those who quoted the Bible to prevent gender equality, ultimately women of faith organized through the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and similar organizations to champion the cause of women’s suffrage.
Similarly, while the Church had a mixed record on slavery and many Christians justified slavery through Scripture, it was passionate Christians like William Wilberforce who helped bring an end to this practice that had been a plague for much of history. It is easy to take for granted how much people of faith out of love and compassion have provided charity in our society, promoted education, and sought to make this world a better place.
As we approach the holiday season, we will see volunteers ringing bells and collecting money for The Salvation Army. Today this organization which spans the globe taking care of the poor and needy began simply in 1852 when William Booth began to walk the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute. If you visit a hospital, you are likely to see a Christian denomination on the door, and while many have turned from their roots, colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and countless others began as Christian institutions.
The Bible repeatedly points us to the need to care for widows and orphans and to serve those in need. I find it helpful to reflect on how much our society has benefited from those who have stepped up because of their love for Jesus and demonstrated that love by fighting for those who may not be able to fight for themselves. Our time on this planet will pass by soon. I wonder what future generations will say about how we have shown God’s love and improved the lives of others both individually and systemically. I pray that I will have the courage and motivation to step up when called and raise my hand. How about you?
Martin E.Willoughby, Jr,. is Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC located in Ridgeland. He and his wife, Nicki, have two children, Ally and Trey, and live in Memphis,Tennessee.