Jerusalem First

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other. Acts 1:8 (NIRV)

This is possibly one of the most well know passages in the New Testament. It’s one I can remember hearing my whole life. And have heard many teachings on it. But yesterday it came to life in a very real, heart-wrecking way.

Every year around Christmas time we support organizations like Operation Christmas Child or Agora Ministries or various Angel Tree charities. We do it because there’s a need. We do it because we want our kids to grasp that we are a tremendously blessed family. And we do it because it makes us feel good.

We do these things, talk about the things we saw and how blessed we are for a few days then go about our lives. I’ll be honest. I’ve never considered myself a naive person. I’ve honestly never thought I lived inside a bubble. But as my bubble popped yesterday, I realized how blinded I’ve been…especially to the things in my Jerusalem…right here in my neighborhood.

I sat in a meeting yesterday where I heard about families right in my son’s school that have needs that absolutely wreck my heart. Families sleeping on floors because there’s nothing else to sleep on. Families whose most basic needs don’t just come up short occasionally, but are never met. I knew that in our quiet Hill Country town there were those with needs. But it never occurred to me that those needs were less than one mile from me on any given day.

As my naive bubble popped and my heart broke (ok, I cried a little, too), Acts 1:8 ran through my head. But there was so much emphasis on “Jerusalem” each time.

See, very unintentionally, we’ve looked for needs in our Judea (other parts of our state). We’ve looked for needs in our Samaria (other parts of our country). And we’ve looked for needs on other ends of the earth. But somehow we’ve overlooked our Jerusalem. Our hometown.

My heart ached as I thought of the needs that have been right in front of our noses for all these years that we’ve just missed. How many of these precious children have I crossed paths with at my son’s school, yet never thought to ask if there’s a need? How many of these parents have I crossed paths with in the course of a day and just missed? As I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening trying to figure out what we can do to help, I felt God do what he often does. He showed me something I’ve missed. Both inside and outside.

I don’t think locations are in random order in that verse above. I believe that they were intentionally ordered that way when Paul wrote Acts. We start where we are. Build in our immediate communities. Meet needs in our immediate communities. Invest in our immediate communities. Then we work on those needs in our state, our country, our world. Or do them simultaneously. But I think we often “forget” to see the needs right where we are. And that’s where God showed me what I’ve missed on the inside.

It’s easier to give or invest in things that are at a distance…outside my city, outside my state, outside my country. The time and emotional investment aren’t as deeply rooted. To meet the needs right in my community will require more of an investment…of my time, of my resources. Of my emotions. Investing right where I am means I’ll cross paths with those that I’ve tried to help. And I won’t be able to simply walk by going about my day. I’ll end up crying with people. And I’ll end up celebrating with people. Because they will be real, tangible, cross-my-path-often people.

I’ve not consciously overlooked my own neighborhood. But I’ve certainly not been intentional to seek out needs here. And I find myself feeling a bit self-centered because of it. But here’s the good news. Today I’m aware. Today I’m ready to take action. Today I’m ready to share in the tears.

This Christmas season, I encourage you to be His witness in your Jerusalem. Call the nearest school to you and ask how you can help families. Call your church and ask how you can meet needs in your own congregation. Call a local non-profit and find out what they need. But be ready…your heart will be wrecked by the needs right in front of you. And your reward will be immeasurable.

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