Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Almost Cruel

It sounds almost cruel, doesn't it? That Christians should stop lobbying for social justice issues, that we should just let persons be poor, sick, lame, oppressed, and all for the sake of being able to tell them just how much they need God? All so that "Jesus" doesn't go out of business?

Well, yeah. Kinda.

As with all things, it's not so black-and-white horrific as it seems. There's this very subtle difference between what has become popular to do and what Jesus would have us do, and that's the shade of grey that we have to recapture if we want to truly be servants of Christ in this world. 

It's not at all that we should leave persons to their own fortunes, that we should turn our backs on the troubles of this world. Nor is it that we should encourage some sort of "praying away" of the trials of this life, as if all it takes is the right combination of words to set a person's aching heart at ease. Rather, it's that we should acknowledge the brokenness of the world, the fallenness of man, and rather than trying to dig ourselves out of it, we should step into it with open arms and buckets of love. 

There's this idea that we should use our voices to speak for those who go unheard in this world. But Jesus says no, don't speak for them. Teach them to cry out. There's something about using your own voice, learning to put sound to your own experience, and there's something even more about having a God who hears what no one else seems to hear. Jesus hears you - He heard the blind men shouting from the side of the road, He heard the whispers in the back of the crowd, He heard the woman at His feet. In a world that doesn't seem to care, He hears you. And that is a more meaningful gift than a hundred thousand words spoken by someone with a "stronger" voice.

There's this idea that we should labor to construct safety nets to catch the most vulnerable of our society - the sick, the lone, the troubled. But Jesus says no, don't waste your time on nets. You catch them. The most elaborate system of homeless shelters cannot do for the soul what one man can do by inviting the wanderer into his own home. The best healthcare in the world fails to maintain the personhood of the body, reducing it to a series of science experiments until it is well...but no longer whole. It takes the tender touch of the human-Holy spirit to truly heal a man. And anyone who has ever been alone or lonely in this world knows that it takes more than simply having programs where a lot of lonely persons are together in one place; there's got to be a real connection, heart-to-heart, to break the pain of loneliness. None of these things can be legislated. None of these things can be lobbied. None of these things can be budgeted, planned, executed as though they were some master scheme, even of a "Christian" society - they are human endeavors, and they require the intimacy of human connection. 

I'm not saying that all our ideas to go out and change the world are "bad," but they're certainly empty. All this time we spend shouting into the wind with our voices of privilege, while we hold up those we fight for as posters or billboards or advertisements for the cause, not as human beings created in the image of God and beloved by Him. Just look at the way that any number of these social justice movements use the very persons they pretend to be fighting for - they're nothing but images, icons. This is the face of poverty in America.

No, Jesus says. This is Mary. This is Bill. This is Joe. This is my precious child who is so much more than the face of whatever cause you think you ought to take up. Take up My cause.

Love them.

Because it doesn't matter what long-term gains you make in the structure of society as we know it if today, Mary goes hungry, even though you threw away a good helping of food because your eyes were bigger than your stomach. It doesn't matter if tomorrow, you win the battle in your community for shelter if tonight, Bill is sleeping outside in the rain while your guest bed sits perfectly made, closed off, unused. It doesn't matter how much you succeed at getting this world to give the poor something worthy if today, you couldn't give Joe the dignity of looking into his eyes and listening to what he truly needs, even though you looked directly into your phone and responded to a few dozen texts. 

Love them. Because today, you can do that, and that's what God has called you to do. Not point them down the road, not promise them tomorrow, not lend them your voice, but draw them in, welcome them in, listen to them speak, and love them. 

If you're not doing that, you're not doing anything.

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