One of the things that I love about the Catholic Church (which I am not a part of) is their relentless desire to promote the social gospel. No, I do not mean that they are good at witnessing over Facebook. What I mean is that they take Jesus’ mission to the poor, sick, and outcast seriously. When I look at the things that the Protestant Church takes serious I see a much different picture.
I’ve been to Baptist churches that take paternal leadership more serious than whether or not the single mother in the back row, who fought for an hour or more to get her kids dressed and in the car, is going to be able to feed her children and pay the rent. I’ve been to modern churches that spend more money on the stage props and backdrops than they did in local charity. I’ve seen people shun members who get divorced without one concern for the hard-fought internal struggle that that person dealt with when they had their hopes and dreams ripped apart.
When I read the gospels from start to finish I always end up reexamining my own life and if I am being loyal to Jesus and His mission.
After Jesus returned from the dessert, being tested for 40 days by Satan himself, He began His ministry by entering the synagogue in Nazareth and quoted these words from Isaiah 61,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
It is interesting that Jesus opens His ministry with the declaration that He has been anointed by the Spirit to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. In the modern mission I often feel as though we spend so much time trying “win” people to the gospel that we often forget that humanity is much more than just fallen out of grace with God, they are in need of the physical requirements of this world.
James, the brother of Jesus, said of this matter:
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16 NIV)
Because of our human nature we tend to focus less on meeting the needs of others. There is no praise for helping the poor, only for making the highest profit, for preaching to the largest crowds, or for being being the most famous.
We seek to change people rather than meet them where they are. We can’t help that person because they will become dependent (as if we are not dependent upon anything). Emphasis on dogmatics overtakes the need to embrace the broken-hearted and outcasts of society. Wearing the right clothes has become more important than making sure the families of our very own cities and towns have enough to eat and sustain themselves.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”