On my daily commute to work I listen to the latest podcast from Mars Hill – Rob Bell’s church – it’s some great and really challenging preaching. 18th February saw the launch of their XYZ campaign – the desire to display faith in action. One of the speakers talks about a visit to Southern Africa where he worked with a bunch of pastors who were trying to figure out what the church could do in the midst of the worst famine in living memory. He tells of how one of the pastors comes out with the incredible words (or how I remember it now!) “without compassion for the needy, the church has no reason for existence”. I’ve probably mangled it, but basically the meaning being that the church must be passionate about the needy – it’s not optional, not a programme, but the foundational nature of who God is and what the church has to be about.
A few posts ago I talked about how for me it’s not about God favouring the poor, but having a passion for the whole of humanity. I don’t think these two statements contradict. Clearly, need is not just about economics or social deprivation indices, but these are things that the church must do something about. In the late 18th and early 19th century a bunch of Christians manages to change culture to accept that slavery was evil and needed to be abolished. Late in the 19th century William Booth led a crusade to improve working conditions in factories and fought against child prostitution. Churches all over this country are actively involved in transforming their communities, one life at a time. Not because they necessarily get anything out of it, not because they want headlines, but because they believe the kingdom comes when lives are redeemed, when the whole earth is transformed.
The church is invited by God to be part of his re-creation of the earth. We fight for justice because God fights for justice. It is our duty…not our hobby. We can have great church services, do great discipleship – but if we’re not living out what we believe about the fullness of life that Christ promises, then we’re totally missing the point.
So how are we involved in transforming the world? How am I seeking to improve the lives of those people I encounter – to help give them hope – a place where the Spirit flourishes? I guess this is a question I need to ask myself every day…