Life On The Margins


woman smiling

Compassion is the essence of how our faith is shown in action. Treating people with dignity, generosity, and open hearts, minds, churches, and homes—each of these is welcoming and honoring others in the same way we would welcome Jesus. This is the shape of our Nazarene life.

The Scriptures reveal Jesus as someone who declares good news through His love and care toward those that are unnoticed, lost, afflicted, outcasts, poor, hopeless, rejected, despised, and overwhelmed. And the Bible calls us—as God’s people—to display love by caring for the world and all who dwell in it; we are to be compassionate. We respond to the prophet’s call to recognize exploitation and oppression. We challenge those who abuse and crush poor people as well as confronting those who shorten the lives of children, destroy homes, and leave people naked and enslaved for their own gain. We join God’s mission of care for “the least of these”—because in this, we love Jesus the most. This, too, aligns with our deep Nazarene history:

“Let the Church of the Nazarene be true to its commission; not great and elegant buildings; but to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and wipe away the tears of sorrowing … The gospel comes to a multitude without money and without price, and the poorest of the poor are entitled to a front seat at the Church of the Nazarene." - P. F. Bresee

In Bresee’s words, we realize our heritage that is marked with holy love for those on the margins of society. Globally, we encounter people without food, water, clothes, homes, freedom, or hope. Some people are so abused and soul-sickened that they turn to alcohol, drugs, pain medications, and more in order to hide their pain; some others struggle to find acceptance in society. How do we approach such needs and situations? We respond through compassionate actions, displaying God’s love for the people, creatures, and even our environment. Compassionate action changes lives.

What does it look like? Years ago, our local congregation—a tiny, thriving, generous, hope-filled place—realized there were people in our city whose asylum claims had been rejected but could not return to their home countries because of the danger. Their lives were in limbo. As a congregation, we joined forces with other churches and offered evening meals, showers, washing machines, and beds for the night. And year after year, we continued extending such practical services.

Another congregation became aware of issues with female bodies, including struggles with monthly cycles, shame, and embarrassment among some groups. The congregation worked with supermarkets and nurses, who gave their time to hold a month-long “woman only” event. Dozens of women dropped in to talk to medical professionals, leaving reassured and aware that the church cares for them. Restoring dignity and being heard are ways compassionate action touches lives.

Magnificently, some senior women participated in training that focused around “what’s in your hand.” They realized they had many years of experience and great skills in mothering and nurturing between them. They opened the church for a warming café, and local residents who were on the margins of the community through disability or life-limiting illness began to drop in and find shelter and hope. The biggest thing they did was to talk with people about normal things. Word spread, and soon the café and then the church were full of people laughing and sharing life together, empowered by love to belong.

Another couple, lifelong church members, were devastated by the husband’s diagnosis with dementia. They started a carer’s café with tea, cake, music, and memories every Friday for any others in their shoes. What began with just the two of them and a friend has grown to more than 40 people. Creative, engaged compassion has changed their lives.

Who are we? How do we align ourselves with God’s compassionate action in the world in service to Christ? Shaped by Scripture and our history, we open our eyes to the needs on our doorsteps, being open-minded about how God can use us. Compassion is who we are called to be: good news.


Taken from the latest issue of NCM Magazine. Read online here.