Pastors Aaron Graham and Justin Fung reflect on their faith inspirations, encouraging ONE members to be generous this Thanksgiving.
We live in a world where a person’s future is too often determined by where he or she is born.
If you’re born in a certain village or zip code, you have a better chance of dying before 18 than receiving a secondary education. And on the flip side, if you’re born into certain freedoms, you have access to life-giving resources such as an education, health care and a worshiping community.
In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt talked about the Four Freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
As advocates with ONE, we are focused this Thanksgiving on addressing the freedom from want for our African brothers and sisters — both on an immediate level in response to the famine and on the level of long-term sustainability.
As we speak up this holiday season, we are reminded that our ability to be advocates is a direct result of the freedoms we were born into.
Jesus taught us, “To those whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). As we reflect this Thanksgiving, we are reminded that even if we are not part of the 1 percent in the US, we are almost certainly part of the 1 percent in the world.
Yet our motivation to give this holiday season is not, and cannot be, out of guilt. If we respond this Thanksgiving out of guilt, it will ultimately paralyze us. Instead, as Christians, we are called to respond generously to others in the same way that God’s amazing grace was generously offered to us.
The disciple John writes, “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
A couple of months ago, we were praying about how to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11; our church got excited about responding by taking up an offering for those facing the worst of the drought in Somalia, many of whom are Muslim.
We were blown away by what happened — it was generosity in action, generosity out of thanksgiving: more than 100 young people in our new church gave $14,600. What made this even more miraculous is that it was matched and multiplied by others the following week to total $100,000 in emergency food aid for the famine!
We love because God first loved us. The best advocacy and the best giving is not done out of guilt but out of thanksgiving. For us, it is a response to the compassionate and relentless love that God spilled out for us that we surely did not deserve.
This week, we’ll be joining with ONE in their Thanksgiving campaign, to add our voices to the call for immediate aid and long-term sustainable development in the Horn of Africa. If we truly believe all are created in the image of God and that we are blessed to be a blessing, speaking out is the least we can do.
Please join us: head to one.org/faith and sign up.
Aaron Graham and Justin Fung are the Lead Pastor and Associate Pastor at the District Church in Washington, DC.