Give away your shirt

This blog is inspired by this episode of What’s God Doing.

Jesus’s clothing ministry looked different than ours.

In early April, YWAM Richmond hosted it’s 3rd “Pop-up Thrift Store”, a result of a generous donation of clothing that seems to be multiplying rather than diminishing.  In our community, there are many that have limited means for whom such an event is a blessing; the deeper reality is that “loving our neighbors” extends beyond $1 shirts to actually loving and connecting with every person that walks through the door.

The focus of the ministry is not clothes: it’s love.

This was true for Jesus’s clothing ministry as well, but he took that love further:

“If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Luke 6:29)

That’s right: Jesus’s “thrift store” entailed rewarding those robbing you.  If Jesus was not trying to incentivize theft, what was he doing?  We find out in the full context of his message:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36

Love, do good, bless, and pray for those enemies that hate, curse, and mistreat you.  This was foolishness then, and foolishness today; in an age when people can publicly share their thoughts, we know most people would do quite the opposite for their enemies.

Jesus wanted us to understand how limited our understanding of love is.  Our basis for extending love centers around 1) if we think the other party deserves it, and 2) if we have the capacity to do it.  If someone steals our coat, 1) they deserve to be arrested, not given more attire, and 2) we are far too frustrated to be loving.

Jesus’s basis for extending love was vastly different: 1) everyone was made in the image of God and for that reason deserving of love, as it’s based on identity and not merit, and 2) God is Love, and Jesus did what he saw his Father doing, and so he loved as his embodiment, not simply nice acts.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

If we are Christ-followers, we are able to love our enemies because Jesus did, and Jesus did because his Father did; put another way, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Charity is nice, but love is eternal.  When we are serving others, we should also be loving them as Jesus would, no matter what our humanity says.

I know the staff of YWAM Richmond seek to do this; if someone came into the thrift shop intent on stealing clothing, they’d likely give them some extra clothes and pizza as well.  Why?  Because they know their purpose is to be Ambassadors of Christ, not Protectors of Clothes (or even, honestly, themselves.)  I can say this because they’ve lived it.  Years ago their campus was robbed of several valuable things; their response was to give up time and resources each week to spend time with those that robbed them.

Jesus’s invitation for you is to love, even if it costs you your shirt; the “immeasurably more” that will result will be worth the loss of fabric.

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