Monday, June 26, 2017

For Christ's Sake

There's a movement among Christians, particularly younger Christians who are trying to take this whole Jesus thing seriously, to stand along the front lines of social justice issues and fight for those who are less fortunate - who are oppressed, who are poor, who are naked, who are hungry, who are ill, who are in prison, etc. 

The idea is that Jesus would fight for these persons. The idea is that Jesus Himself would be willing to stand for them. The idea is that as Jesus-lovers and God-followers in this world, we should do no less. 

But there's a bit of tension here that we must all feel, even when we're standing in society's biggest gaps, and that is the tension between what Jesus would do and what Jesus would have us do. 

On one hand, yes. Absolutely yes. We have been called to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, to live the way that Jesus lived, to love the way that Jesus loved. And that absolutely means fighting for others, advocating for the honor of what is God-given and image-bearing in every man, woman, and child. 

On the other hand, no. Absolutely no. Jesus was very clear about the ways that we should interact with the less fortunate, that we should engage the oppressed, the poor, the naked, the hungry, the ill, the imprisoned, etc. He minced no words about it. We have not been called to close the gaps, but to stand in them. 

And what He said was not that we ought to be working to make sure that these persons no longer face these troubles. What He said was not that we should invest our lives in restructuring society so that these classes of individuals cease to exist. What He said...was that we will always have the poor among us. What He said is that there will always be the sick, the naked, the imprisoned. What He said is they will always be here.

What He said was to visit them. Clothe them. Feed them. Heal them. Love them. 

That's different than "fixing" them. That's different than changing their circumstances. That's different than a distant act of advocacy, the kind of thing we do by standing in our pews or standing in our streets. Visiting the prisoner requires that we go behind bars. Visiting the sick requires that we breathe the germed air. Clothing the naked requires that we stand in full vision of their shame (nakedness is equated with shame in the Scriptures). Poverty requires that we give of our own riches. 

And no matter how well we articulate it, giving of our privilege is not the same as giving of our real resources. Giving of our privilege does not entail the same human cost and reward as doing what Jesus actually called us to do, and that was to give of ourselves. 

But it's not just for us. It's not just for the sake of what Christ has truly called us to, but also for the sake of what Christ has given. We can give the oppressed the world. We can advocate our way toward social justice. And let's say we do - let's say that we as Christians succeed and social justice is the norm. We have given our brothers and sisters a lot, a great deal, a good thing. But have we given them the greatest thing?

We have given them what Christ promises, but have we given them Christ Himself?

(Stay tuned.)

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