Pastoral Perspectives

There Is Room In My Heart

Christmas is dawning upon us soon. I love the Christmas carol “There is room in my heart for Thee”. The song speaks of how Jesus left his heavenly throne when he came to earth but in Bethlehem where he was to be born there was simply no room for his nativity. We are familiar with the Christmas narrative. Bethlehem was very crowded with people because of the census. Joseph couldn’t find accommodation even though Mary was about to give birth. In the end, the best place they could settle in was a rather smelly manger and the arrival of the Son of God was welcomed by domesticated animals. While there was no room for Jesus, the refrain of this carol is expressed in these beautiful words: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.”

Making room in our hearts for Jesus must also mean making room in our hearts for people. It is no surprise that the greatest commandment is for us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Our love for God and our love for people cannot be separated. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

We have just heard two sermons concerning Urban Missions. Eld Dr Goh Wei Leong exhorted us not to look away but to look at those who are in need with eyes of compassion. Dr Tan Lai Yong urged us to create space in our hearts so that we can care for others and in so doing we are ordering our lives according to the shape of the cross. These exhortations echo the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves. Our neighbours can be people from other nations because we live in such a cosmopolitan country. That’s why we can do Urban Missions at our doorsteps.

I am not discouraging you from going for overseas mission trips. The Mission Committee has issued a challenge for each one of us to go for such trips at least once in our lifetime and the challenge is still valid. Of course, we are hoping that once you have taken the step of faith to embark on your first mission trip, it will mark the start of many trips to come as you see the needs beyond the shores of Singapore.

In the lingo of mission agencies, Urban Missions specifically refer to Urban Migrants Missions and it is about how we can reach out to foreign workers in Singapore and develop a loving response to them since they are strangers in our midst just as how God has always cared for the foreigners living among his people. While mission trips happen only a few times in a year, engaging in urban missions can be an everyday affair. It starts with creating space in our hearts for people, people from other nations. I think of our expatriate colleagues, our maids (I would prefer to address them as helpers), those who clean our housing estates, parents of our children’s friends who are foreigners, shop keepers hail from other countries whose stores we regularly patronise. Creating room in our hearts for these people can begin with a genuine smile and a courteous greeting, moving on to building rapport and demonstrating acts of compassion and kindness when the opportunity arises.

When Gavriel was younger, I would often take him to Changi beach to watch the planes fly over our heads. I remember making friends with 2 young people from a country in South Asia who were employed by NEA to clean the beach. Striking up a casual conversation with them eventually led to them coming for a Christmas outreach programme organised by my DG. Then there are those who clean our estates. I notice that usually it is the same person who ensures the cleanliness of the HDB block I’m residing in. My experience has been that it’s easy to befriend them. Over various conversations, we can get to know them better – where they come from, where they are staying while they are working in Singapore, what’s home like for them back in their own country, why they have decided to come to Singapore to work. Some have quite a good command of English while others may pose a challenge where communication is concerned. You know a certain rapport has been built when they come to you for help with regards to where and how they can purchase a new SIM card for their phone. They are also very happy to receive hand-me-downs but please do give away things that are still in good condition. Eventually, there will be opportunities to share with them the good news of Jesus and even if language is a barrier, we can always pass them a Bible or a Gospel tract in their language.

Urban Missions aside, making space in our hearts for others can also apply to those in our church community – those with special needs, those who have disabilities, those who exact our attention and energy, those who are just simply different from us. Do we try to avoid them? Maybe it is because we don’t know how to engage them and we also don’t know how to disengage from them when we need to excuse ourselves. So to prevent any awkwardness, we simply just steer away from them. But how would they feel? How would their loved ones who are accompanying them feel? Love is patient and kind; love means bearing with one another; love means looking to the interests of others. Instead of focusing on our own discomfort, we ought to look at these our brothers and sisters in Christ with eyes of compassion. If we have no room in our hearts for those inside our community, how will we have room for those outside our community?

Where are all these leading to? When we demonstrate love, we become channels of God’s love so that people at the receiving end will experience the love of God through us, resulting in thanksgiving and joy which brings glory to God. For those who do not yet acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Lord, when they look at the church, they will wonder what makes this community so special. They will scratch their heads as to why such a diverse group can stay together. They will marvel at how much care and compassion is shown despite the inherent differences of individuals because according to the world’s standard, only birds of the same feather flock together. Our love and unity will therefore speak volumes for the Gospel. Of course when these non-Christians themselves experience love from Christians in a direct way, they too can taste of God’s love. Perhaps when we create space in our hearts for others, it will result in others creating space in their hearts for God. When we make room in our hearts for people, it will cause them to make room in their hearts for Jesus.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

November 3, 2019