Responding to Grace
The past few weeks on this blog I have been writing about what The Bible has to say about some of the causes of poverty.
This brings us to:
4. No matter what government does, The Church has the capacity & responsibility to make caring for The Poor a priority.
We are called back to consider the role of Jesus’ Church in responding to poverty. We live in a time of government programs which provide for the poor. However, we dont’ have to rewind far to see that it was The Church who cared for those on the fringe and was the establisher of many institutions that continue to do great work today. However, we now live in this weird time where it is easy to imagine that the government bears the responsibility of the poor while bemoaning the idea that it has taken over a task that was the Church’s role.
So, what are we to do? I believe that its our task as Jesus followers to use the capacity and the calling that God has given us to make The Poor a priority.
On our furlough we have had conversations in numerous places where people are grappling with the influences of consumerism and materialism causing a lack of focus on the mission that Jesus has called us to. There is a hunger which we are hearing over and over again in individuals to respond to Jesus’ call to those who live on the fringe. However, people feel tied up in their own personal cultures or the church cultures that they are in and cannot see an outlet. It is easy to imagine that hopping on a plane and moving to a foreign country would take care of all of this, but it doesn’t solve a thing. Rather, that internal and external wrestling just follows us wherever we go.
I was struck recently by the effects of consumerism as we spoke to a youth group. The room was filled with a bunch of teenagers – most of them wearing the latest fashion, carrying their smart phones with data plans, and talking about how difficult their days had been. We were seated in a newly renovated room that had the latest flat screen TVs and comfortable couches around the room (unlike the youth room furniture that I remember). As I looked around it seemed clear to me how our culture starts lulling us to sleep while drawing us into consumerism at such an early age.We are left apathetic to change and can start missing the point at a very early age. Fortunately, there were prophetic voices around me who were calling me to bust out when I too was chasing consumerism and apathy as a teenager. We all need those prophetic voices calling us to bust out of consumeristic Christianity – an oxymoron in and of itself.
So, what are we to do? How do we as The Body of Jesus followers respond and take up the role of serving the poor? Who are the prophetic voices calling us to consider a different way?
One such voice is the example of the early church. This was an era where if The Church didn’t serve the poor then no one did. The Church carried a new outlook on those who were considered on the fringe of society as they responded to Jesus and the in-breaking of His Kingdom. Ultimately, they responded to God’s grace in their lives.
Consider Acts 4, “32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
Notice that the believers were committed to each other. Notice that they had a level of holding possessions lightly. Notice that they had a common mission as they continued in power to testify to Jesus’ resurrection and all that means. Notice they shared freely. I believe that verse 33 sheds light on why this was happening, “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Luke continues going to share how people were even selling their land and houses to provide for those in need.
The common thread here is that “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them.” They were experiencing a depth of God’s grace that left them needing to respond. They were grabbing a hold of God’s Grace in such a life changing way that they had to then have an outlet to give that Grace away. It’s simply God’s economy. This brand of radical grace moved them to do the radical. They sold homes and land in order to provide for others. Sounds like sheer lunacy to our ears trained to be good consumers, yet it is the Good News in operation.
I remember hearing a speaker tell a story of hard economic times hitting her church and as leaders they were needing to make difficult choices. The discussion started to revolve around laying off staff members to make the budget. Her response was to look around the table and instead to call people to sell their vacation homes and their expensive possessions rather than laying off staff people. Shocking, right? Radical Grace calls for a Radical Response.
How do we respond? We respond by embracing the radicalness of God’s grace for us. The message of Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” calls us to reflection. How amazing is that kind of grace? As that message grips our hearts and minds, there wells up in us a need to respond, and we find that outlet among The Poor and those who live on the fringes. The radicalness of this message and our desire for radical response will also help us battle the forces of pride, apathy, comfort, greed, materialism and consumerism that so subtly draw our attention away from what is truly important and lasting.
We have met so many people on this trip grabbing ahold of this radical grace. They see all that Jesus has done and they are chomping at the bit to respond in whatever way He has for them. May clarity come for them as they grab ahold of the most radical and revolutionary message ever proclaimed – “Jesus is Lord.” Wherever you are at on this journey of grace, we are cheering you on!