Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Task of the Church

I saw a family the other day whose kids were complaining about living in a dump as they swam in their beautiful backyard pool in their $80 swimsuits outside their 3500 sq. ft home for 4, and thought how many people are just squeaking by on minimum wage with 2 kids and a 23-year old car shared by both mom and dad to get the kids to school and them to work every day, with the battery dying leaving mom to rely on jumpstarts from strangers to get home from every third trip to the grocery store where she had just enough to buy a loaf of bread, pack of baloney, and half a gallon of milk for the week.

There should be no poverty in our world. God has put riches enough in our world to provide all of us with not just our needs, but also our joys. But Christians have focused on saving souls instead of fulfilling:
  • Jesus' first sermon (Luke 4:14-19), which explained his mission as giving good news to the poor, and proclaiming freedom to captives, and giving sight to the blind, and freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor;
  • or his last (Matt 25:31-46), which was about feeding the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and the prisoner;
  • or that of John, who when asked what should be done to demonstrate repentance, did not tell his listeners to study their Bibles more or bring visitors to church or convert sinners, but told them to share their stuff, to not overcharge for their services, and to be content with what they had;
  • or that of Paul who stressed that the fulfillment of the law of Christ was to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2);
  • or that of Paul in another sermon wherein he stressed that he didn't mean that one group should fare well while another suffers, but that the well-to-do group should bring the suffering group up to a level of financial equality with them (2 Cor 8:13-15).
There also should be no sickness in our world. Another part of Jesus' first sermon was to heal the blind. I believe God has given us the technological ability to heal all sorts of diseases; we just haven't yet discovered that ability in a lot of cases, and in those cases for which we do have answers, we don't have the fair distribution to get the cures out to everyone who needs them. The church has a mandate, I believe, for making sure its young people are educated and driven to find and deliver medical healing to the world.

There also should be no oppression in our world. There should be no slavery, or political oppression, or subjugation of one person by another, such as in the case of rape or robbery or marital abuse or job abuse. Another part of Jesus' first sermon was to bring liberty to the captive and to the oppressed.

When the church has eradicated poverty and sickness and oppression on this planet, and when it has converted the mindsets of the world to love God and neighbor, then will be fulfilled the prayer of Jesus : "Your rulership come; your will be done, on earth, just like it is in heaven." But we've given up on this earth, focusing on the truth that this world is fading away, doomed for destruction. Yes, it is. But we're to be the salt, the preservative of the world, and we're to spread the rulership, the will of God, to this earth, now, while we're here. We're not supposed to abandon the world to destruction, or worse, hasten the coming of the destruction. We're supposed to be salt, and light, and to do good works - "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16).

Spreading "the gospel" is indeed something we are to be doing. But we're also supposed to be eradicating poverty and sickness and oppression. Until we've done that, we've failed at our task.

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