"In your face" Jesus Style Mercy and Social Justice Ministry

"Bible education?"  We've got a program for that.

"Feeding the homeless?"  We've got a program for that.

"Seniors ministry?"  We've got a program for that.

"Greeting first time visitors?" We've got a program for that.

"Community outreach?"  We don't currently have that, but give us 6 months and we'll put a committee together to form a program for that.

Over the years I've come to notice that as the church, we love having "programs."  I'm not even sure many of us could define the word "program."   However, there is one thing we know, is that if there is a problem we are trying to solve, we know that a program will fix it.

Programs have become our one indispensable tool that we use on everything, and fulfills the prophecy that says if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will begin to look like a nail.  And if we don't have a program for something as a church, we tend to let things fall to the wayside, as collectively, we can only do so much.

Please don't get me wrong.  I think programs are great, and I believe they are Biblical. Organizing a group of mutually interested people to solve a problem, pooling mutual resources, and working together as a community, we can often do more together than we can individually.  We need food pantries, we need community outreach programs, and all these sort of things.

However, there still remains much for us to do at the individual level.  As much as we need church programs, we also have a great need for "in your face" Jesus style mercy and social justice ministry.

Jesus once said:

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' " ~ (Matthew 25:34-40; NASB)

One thing that has always stuck out to me regarding this passage is the very intimate and personal nature in which the followers of Jesus are supposed to reach out to people.

Jesus said "I was hungry, and YOU gave ME something to eat... I was thirsty, and YOU gave ME something to drink..."

There is something very one on one and up close and personal about this.   I, you, me.

I believe in my heart of hearts we need to reach out to people and connect with them in a way that programs simply will not allow.  Programs tend to get boxy and have steps and procedures and regulations and chains of command.  Programs become filled with red tape, and and as we institutionalize outreach, we sometimes make it impossible to reach out to people to meet their individual needs.

As a result, even our best of programs have tons of cracks for people to fall through, and if the program you have does not match the person, that person will become further neglected, marginalized, and unreached.

Jesus calls on us as individuals to reach out to individuals.

If we see somebody is in need, Jesus doesn't want us to simply refer them to a church or government program.  Rather, we need to look and see if there isn't a way that you as a person can meet them where they are at and help them.  You can feed them, you can give them something to drink, you can give them a place to stay, you can put clothes on their back, you can spend time with them when they are sick, you can visit them in prison.

You.... you... you!  This is one of the few times in the Bible that we read where it's really all about you.

You don't have to wait for the church or the government to solve the problems people and society face, rather you as an individual can look solve these problems at an individual level, within whatever sphere of influence you have.  You may not do a lot to fundamentally transform society and reach the masses, but you will be performing a service as if unto Jesus Himself.  And if we as individuals in the church all stepped up to do this, who knows to what degree society might be quietly changed and transformed.  I'm pretty sure there is a parable or two in the Bible where Jesus talked this sorta thing.

So, if you consider yourself a "social justice advocate" and think everybody should make a living wage, then when you go out to a restaurant to eat, instead of sitting back and dreaming about a democratic socialist utopia in which president Bernie Sanders leads a revolution that sticks it to greedy corporate fat cats, and forces them to better pay their employees, when you go out to eat at a restaurant, you could make it a point to leave a VERY generous tip (much more than 20%), regardless of how well your waiter performs, or the size of your food order.

Or if you think a particular government agency does a great job at something, and you really like what they do, you could always make a very generous donation to the IRS, and pay the tax level that you want to pay, instead of sitting around and waiting for the government to raise taxes on everyone else.

Or, if you think that college should be free, you could always head down to your local college registrars office, and find out the names of some students who need some tuition assistance this year, and bless one of those students with a scholarship or grant funded by you.

Likewise, if you think medicine should be socialized, there is nothing stopping you from randomly paying the bills of a stranger or somebody you know at the hospital.

Go, do these things.  Stop waiting for some program to be formed that addresses all these issues and ministers justice and mercy to others.  Rather, be an angel of mercy yourself.  Practice justice yourself.  Find individuals wherever they are at, be it friends, neighbors, co-workers, or even complete strangers, and think of ways that you as an individual can serve them even as Jesus would serve them.

Learn from Jesus, who when He healed the multitudes, He never did this by just waving His hand over an entire crowd and making everybody whole.  Rather, He did this by going through a crowd, and one by one, He touched people where they were at.  He ministered to people face to face, and He took the time to care for each person as an individual.  He didn't wait for a committee to organize something.  He was proactive, and took it upon Himself to do these things, because He knew that is what the Father wanted Him to do.

What does God the Father want you to do?  What has He purposed in your heart?  Who has He put in your life, that you know has a need?  Who can you reach out to as an individual?  Where can you make the difference?  Don't wait for a program to be organized to solve social ills that you have identified.  Don't simply talk a good game.  Put your hand to the plow, and work the field that is yours to work.

No comments:

Post a Comment