Reading through a recent discussion of a gathering of Reformed Churches in the U.S. the following comment was made regarding a divide in thought processes among the attendees, not unlike what has been happening among Americans in general as well as many church bodies regardless of other theological matters.
One of the frustrations expressed at Synod 2017 was that calls for the church to serve the poor and the oppressed and to advocate for justice are too often expressed without reference to the church’s gospel mission. As Craig Hoekema put it, referring to a specific recommendation under discussion, “It’s not because we don’t like justice; it’s not because we don’t think the church is called to do justice. It’s because in this recommendation, for example, there’s very little language that connects these activities to the unique mission of the church—which is to make disciples.”
My immediate response to this is simply that it takes disciples to make disciples. That may seem super-simplistic but it is in my view, profoundly accurate, as spiritual as it is practical with regard to any matter for those who claim to follow Jesus.
We believers do tend to compartmentalize what God’s love and even “the Good News” IS… and fuss over methodology to the point of disfellowshipping one another, church splits and at times, outright rage and rancor. Mature disciples confess and repent of such petty sin, others practice it.
A true disciple of Jesus will not only verbally share the Good News of Jesus but indeed reach out ala His Words in Matthew 25 and love, serve and share with “the least of these” whomever and where ever they are. It’s BOTH=AND not either-or!!!
A disciple (listener/learner/follower) of Jesus is concerned not merely with spirituality but practical care. Jesus in the Gospels, certainly the Book of Acts and Book of James and plenty more biblical texts shout this!
I fear we often preach/share as we give a cup of water or food to the hungry, out of our own sense of comfort. Or we simply help meet a given practical need without any sort of verbal witness in mind- and if this is the norm, I wonder about our maturity indeed. But here in part, is why I think we do or don’t as we do or don’t-
That which comes easiest to us becomes the measure for the rest of the professed Christians we encounter. We judge based out of our strengths rather than seeking to grow, mature as disciples by stepping up our own spiritual/practical service/helping deficit areas.
I will finish with three quotes- the first from Calvin, Wesley and Jesus. It is clear the first two didn’t agree on core matters of theology… but hear just two of their comments re. the poor:
“…the church must be the place where the poor find justice:’Except then we endeavor to relieve the necessities of our brethren and to offer them assistance, there will not be in us but one part of true conversion.’”
“You should see and revere your Saviour in every poor man you ease, and be as ready to relieve him as you would to relieve Christ himself.”
““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”
How can the poor HEAR good news if you and I and those who profess faith in Jesus aren’t with them, alongside them, involved with them to the extent of verbally sharing the Good News in their presence? If we don’t go near, associate with poor folks, how is it we are attending to a biblical discipleship of sharing it -with- them?!
And then Matthew 25- food, water, clothing, housing, medical care, direct care for incarcerated people. Both/And.
A discipleship that both talks and walks is a must-see, especially amongst increasingly jaded, sick-to-death-of-hypocrites generations who have seen little reason to trust “Christians” much less any sort of “church” who have not yet embraced lovING outside our comfort zone as relevant, therefore we render our faith irrelevant in their eyes.
This is not rocket science!
Love must be heard and seen.
As always,thanks for stopping by 🙂 -Glenn