There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities;
that brings the authorities down to their knees.
There’s a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
to fight for control by some manipulation.
But the God of the Kingdoms and God of the Nations,
the God of Creation sends this revelation
to the homeless and penniless: Jesus, the Son!
The Poor will inherit the Kingdom to Come!
Where will we turn when our world falls apart
and all of the treasures we’ve stored in our barns
can’t buy the Kingdom of God?
And who will we praise when we’ve praised all our lives
men who build kingdoms and men who build fame
when Heaven does not know their names?
And what will we fear when all that remains
is God on the throne with a child in His arms
And love in His eyes,
and the sound of His heartcries?
I’ve been re-re-reading Crazy Love and Chan mentions a question that one of his professors in college would ask: “What are you doing today that requires faith?” That question resonated with me because honestly, there isn’t anything going on in my life right now that requires me to have faith. I have a steady income, good health insurance, a grocery store down the street, and the biggest anxiety I face is if it’s going to be good hiking weather this weekend.
I live in a bubble where there isn’t room for faith. Faith is risky and it’s so much easier to settle into security, comfort, and status quo. We congratulate ourselves for not being like those silly Israelites who went around worshipping wood and gold statues immediately after witnessing God’s work in their midst, but how quickly do we lay our offerings at the feet of Retirement Plan and worship Flat Panel Screen?
What would it look like for an American Christian to truly live in a way that required faith? My mind goes first to money because we are filthy, stinking rich, but there are certainly other things that require faith of us. It takes faith to step into situations where you could be in trouble if God doesn’t come through. That could mean standing for justice at my job or speaking truth that might cause me to lose relationships. But mostly it’s about money, because that is what we have faith in in this country.
Why do our churches not look like the early church? Why do we gather on Sunday mornings and maybe small grops once during the week. We talk with our friends, share the latest news and gossip and then sit in a lecture hall to sing emotionally stirring songs and hear intellectually stimulating sermons, then say goodbye and have our weeks to ourselves with our other friends.
Why doesn’t the church act as our life and health and unemployment insurance? Why doesn’t it share meals every day? Why have we relegated mercy ministries to para-church organizations? I feel like if my church were to disappear tomorrow, I could easily replace it with some other social club. I could join a bowling league or a community chorus and fill the niche that the church currently fits in my life.
It would be so easy to pass this problem off to “the Church”, but the Church is its members. We are the church and if we see problems, they are only the manifestations of our individual issues. If the Church is not caring for the poor or seeking social justice, it is because the church’s members are not seeking to be imitators of Christ in His ministry to the outcast and downtrodden. If the Church is hostile and accusatory towards those outside it’s walls, it is because the church’s members have failed to see themselves in the chastised religious elite gripping stones to throw at the adulterous woman. If the Church’s main concern seems to be gaining political power and legislating a comfortable situation, it is because the church’s members have become like Jesus’ disciples on the road to Jerusalem; expecting Jesus to ride in and overthrow the Roman oppressor, all the while missing Jesus own words “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33).
The Christians of Acts shared everything and depended heavily on the community of the Church for even their basic needs. I don’t depend on my church at all. In fact, I often catch myself thinking about how much the church relies on me! Certainly I should be ready to help those in the church (or else how would anyone be able to depend on the Church in the first place?) but if the degree to which I bear the burdens of those in the Church does not cause me to turn around and lay my own burdens on other brothers and sisters, am I truly bearing any burden at all?
I am enjoying the weekend leading up to my final week working at Compassion International. I’ve spent the last 9 weeks learning about this organization and their mission and providing my skills in the software development department. It has been an amazing summer both in and out of the workplace, as I have gotten to form lifetime friendships with the 18 other interns.
Compassion is a ministry that is committed to releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. They do this by providing local churches in poverty stricken areas the resources they need to provide for the needs of their community. The churches open their doors to the children in their communities and provide food, clothing, life skills, and spiritual teaching. Each child is matched with a sponsor like you or me who commits to provide the money needed each month to give that child the holistic growth he needs.
Even though it is consistently ranked in the 99th percentile of non-profit organizations because 80% or more of their money raised goes directly to the child, I think the thing that really sets them apart is their commitment to work exclusively through the local church. They are not promoted in the communities as the Compassion project, the locals only know it as the program put on by the First Baptist Church of Uganda or the Anglican Church in Bolivia. It is the church they see helping people and being a blessing.
Aside from my work there, I have been able to enjoy the utopia that is Colorado’s landscape. I’ve managed to hike up two fourteener along with my fellow interns and have hiked the Great Sand Dunes. All the interns have such an experience-life spirit, I don’t think I could have asked for a better group.
There is only one instance recorded in the gospels of Jesus describing judgment day. It is found in the second part of Matthew 25. The criteria for judgment is not whether we went to church or sang the right songs or prayed well. And as hard as it may be for many American Christians to believe, it isn’t “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal lord and savior” either.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
The only thing that Jesus bases his judgment on here is how we have dealt with the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the oppressed.
That’s a frightening revelation, especially since in the whole year of 2005 only fifty percent of American church-goers heard a sermon about the churches responsibility to the poor. If, at the final judgment, Jesus is going to ask us, not the feel-good “what have you done with my son” question, but actually “What have you done to feed, clothe, care for, and come alongside the least among you”, I want to be finding out how to do that as much as I can.
Obviously, it’s ultimately about Christ’s work for me and in me, but I have to ask myself: If I’m not passionate about caring for the poor, is Christ truly in me? I can’t make myself care about the poor and hope that it gets me a pass, but I can dig deeper with God and that passion will come.