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Engaging Brokenness

Engaging Brokenness: Lessons from the Life of Jesus

There is no debate on whether or not we live in a broken world. Just in the last several months we have seen brokenness and devastation on all major news outlets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sickness, death, loss of work, missed milestones like graduations and birthdays—all contribute to temporary brokenness.

However, brokenness is not new, right? Brokenness didn’t just appear in our cultural landscape a few months ago, it has been with us for a long time. For most people experiencing brokenness, the wonder of, “Why is this happening to me? What am I going to do? Who can help?” can be incessant. Those of us who see the brokenness around us often ask, “What can I do? How can I help?” The tension is real. So, how are we to respond to brokenness?

The ministry of Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) seeks to be used by God to equip the church to be able to engage these broken moments in a person’s life. We believe the greatest way one can engage brokenness is by first developing a heart of mercy. Jesus is our prime example. He engaged the brokenness around him with gentleness, mercy, grace, and truth.

So, how do you engage brokenness? Here are three ways we see from the life of Jesus to engage brokenness well.

1. Build Relationships

It’s difficult to help restore something if we do not know what needs to be restored. The same is true when it comes to engaging brokenness. It’s easy to assume we know the situation, but we have to spend time engaging the person if we want know how to best meet their needs.

Jesus was masterful at building relationships. There are many references to cite, but the one that I’d like us to focus on is His interaction with Matthew the tax collector in Matthew 9:9-10:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.

It’s important in building relationships to check our own heart to ensure we are not building a hobby instead of a genuine relationship. There is a key difference between building authentic, gospel-centered relationships and treating someone as a project to fix. Jesus always built gospel-centered relationships.

We see Jesus spending time with the people he desired to minister to. There is a phrase in the passage that might not stick out to us in our culture, but the phrase is important for the culture of Jesus’ day. That phrase is “reclined at table.” To recline at table with someone in those days meant a little more than eating together, it signified personal relationship. To recline at table would mean you associate with the people you are with; you know them, they know you.

Jesus built genuine relationships with those he ministered to. He made time for them, he enjoyed the simplicity of human life with them (eating and drinking). He demonstrated care and human dignity to those he was building relationships with. 

This must be our goal as well. Are we willing to truly engage the person, or do we just want to fix their problem? Jesus always engaged the person. That is the first step in being able to engage brokenness; we have to be willing to build genuine relationships. 

You might be asking, “How do I do that?” Well, the best way to improve at building genuine relationships is by cultivating a tender heart.

2. Cultivate Tenderness

There are two inherent dangers in admitting that brokenness is all around us; it creeps in slowly and can shade the way we view the world. The first looming danger is allowing ourselves to become desensitized to the brokenness around us. We see brokenness and shrug it off, assuming the posture of, “Oh well, what can I do about it? The world is full of broken people.” This form of callousness will hinder us from moving toward those who are broken in order to build a healthy relationship.

The second danger that looms is the exact opposite of becoming desensitized and that is being over-sensitized. This can cause a paralyzing effect on someone to the point where all they see is the brokenness and it overwhelms them to the point of inaction, or unhelpful action. Both of these responses to brokenness can negatively affect our ability to engage the brokenness around us. But what would Jesus have us do?

Jesus, again, leaves us an example of how to orient our hearts toward brokenness in the next few verses, in Matthew 9:11-12:

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

Now we see a different form of callousness emanating from the Pharisees, but we want to focus on Jesus’ response to their poor response to brokenness. Jesus demonstrates for us a heart of tenderness. The Pharisees look at the people and see tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus sees something deeper. He sees people – people He created – made in the image of God, who are broken and in need.

This tender heart is what moves Jesus toward people to meet them in their physical needs. This tenderness is what moved Him to heal the sick and lame, to sit and eat with tax collectors and sinners.

Now, we all know we can’t be like Jesus 100% of the time, but Jesus shows us what we’re striving for. How do we begin to take the right steps in engaging the brokenness around us? We cultivate tender hearts, remembering the dignity and worth of every human and reminding ourselves that the brokenness they are experiencing is not how God intended it to be. The effects of sin weigh heavy on people and these effects come in different forms. Cultivating a tender heart allows us to build healthy, strong relationships with people experiencing brokenness. It helps us to see them as image bearers and by the grace of God’s Spirit, we can seek to help them through their brokenness.

Like Jesus, when we operate in this frame of mind, we can meet people’s physical needs. However, we don’t stop there. As we cultivate tender hearts and build healthy relationships with people, we must keep the ultimate need in mind: salvation. 

3. Proclaim the Kingdom

In order to engage brokenness completely, we must proclaim the Kingdom of God. In this process, we must fight the tension of ultimate vs. ulterior.

I’m sure we all have experienced engaging with someone who had an ulterior motive. How did it make you feel? Could you tell they had your best interest in mind, or did you get the sense that they had an agenda and talking to you was a means to that end? When we engage brokenness, proclamation of God’s kingdom is necessary, but we must fight making our efforts in engaging brokenness a means to an end. Why? Because genuinely caring for someone’s physical state is pleasing to God. It demonstrates the power of His Spirit in your life; that He has transformed you and you get to walk in the character traits listed in Colossians 3:12-17.

We don’t want to have ulterior motives, but we do want to have an ultimate motive. In the process of engaging someone’s brokenness, we ultimately want them to come to know Jesus. Jesus shows us what it looks like to have an ultimate mindset in the next verse in the passage we’ve been reflecting on. Matthew 9:13:

“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees had ulterior motives in much of what they did, and Jesus challenges them to see their hypocrisy and how they missed what God has called His people to do, namely, to be merciful toward people and proclaim His call for sinners to turn to Jesus. Jesus came ready to proclaim God’s kingdom of repentance and at the same time, He faithfully engaged the brokenness around him. Not only that, but ultimately, He came to be the propitiation for the world. Isn’t Jesus the best teacher? We believe He is. Jesus shows us that we don’t have to choose between engaging brokenness and proclaiming the kingdom. We can do both and we can do both well—Jesus is our example and a great example at that.

These three steps to engaging brokenness are not exhaustive, but we believe they are a great start. Which of these three areas do you hope to grow in? Whichever you choose, we hope God gives you the grace needed to honor Him in all you do.

Next Steps

At Children’s Hunger Fund, it is our mission to live out these virtues. We want to build healthy relationships, cultivate a heart of tenderness, and see the Kingdom of God proclaimed. We see the brokenness, and God has called us to engage in helping suffering children all around the world.

If you are looking for ways to begin engaging brokenness, but you aren’t sure where to begin, would you consider partnering with Children’s Hunger Fund?

One of the simplest ways to begin is by participating in one of our Pak Projects. This is a tangible way for your congregation to arm local pastors with the food and resources to begin to cultivate authentic relationships and proclaim the Kingdom. If you’re not sure which option is best for you, send us a note and we’ll help you get plugged in.

We consider it a privilege to serve God in this way. We pray God is working in your heart and possibly calling you to join us. We look forward to your partnership, if you so choose. In the meantime, pray for God to show you ways you can engage the brokenness around you. He will be honored by your efforts.

Grace & Peace,

Barry Moore
Director, Church Partnerships