Recently I approached the church of a young man from that church I’ve been helping to see if they could contribute a few hundred dollars to help him store some furniture. He was given the furniture but needed to store it for a while as he looked for a new place to live. This man is living on social assistance and has very little to call his own. His present living situation is unacceptable.
His church turned down my request. They gave me the following reasons. One, they could not support an open-ended commitment [I had only asked for two months’ space rental support]. Two, they would rather help him get the furniture he needed when he moved than help with the storage of what he already had! Three, the church was foreseeing some expenses of their own they needed to save for. And, four, they did not want to set a precedent!
Not set a precedent! A church that had been around for years did not want to set a precedent of helping one of their own better their life.
The bottom line? The young man lost out on the furniture.
I’m not picking on this one church. This happens all the time, in many churches.
People are Watching
A Christian church should be different. It should be about actions rather than words. People would notice that difference.
It's important because if we keep "doing church" as we are -- we really are showing that we don't believe in actions over words. And people see our hypocrisy; see that we don't really believe what the bible says; see that we disobey the most important commandment of all each day. It's understandable why most turn away before ever experiencing God's love.
To me, the mark of a Christian church is a church that is known for the impact it has on the world for good. And, I'm not just talking about speaking "righteous" words or even increasing membership. I'm talking about changing the world around us for the better. Doing things to improve the lives of people.
Today "Christian" churches are mostly social clubs where people, who share similar views, gather to pat each other on the back and tell each other how good and righteous they are. Churches serve to support and enable people to live lives that wallow in selfishness and gluttony because the church lends us moral support for the way we choose to live our lives.
What Jesus Taught
The truth as stated by God is much different. We read this in Matthew in the Bible [Jesus talking]:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
God talks more about the requirement for Godly people to help and bring justice to the poor, the oppressed, the stranger, the immigrant, the marginalized in society than anything else.
Jesus talked more about building God's kingdom on earth than he did God's kingdom in heaven. Which makes sense since that's where we are now. Earth. Check out Luke 4 sometime. In Jesus' first message to the world He says this:
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.
Yet, do we hear much about this in our churches? We are called to help the people who need help. The people who need housing, clothing, food, education, health care -- yes, very physical, very tangible needs. Needs that would require sacrifice for us to meet. We are commanded to provide for them as best we can. To share what we have with them. This is what it really means to live a Christian life; to be a Christian.
The Church Reality
Of course, our church budgets today reflect quite the opposite. Most churches spend 80 or 90 percent of their budgets paying for buildings and salaries. If you dig into the relatively small amount that goes to "missions" you will find most of that also goes to fund buildings and salaries.
In the end, I wonder if even 1% of what is given in tithes and offerings at most churches goes into what it really should go into -- helping the poor and needy; protecting God's creation; sharing God's love (with more than words).
It's a disgrace. We are squandering the resources God has given us to build palaces to serve as testament to our great righteousness and godliness.
How about instead of buying expensive property and building a huge, expensive new building -- why doesn't a church take over an abandoned building on the poor side of town and turns it into a community service hub that does "church" all the time? We'd be helping turn the community around and efficiently using God's resources at the same time. What kind of witness would that be to the community?
Some people say our primary mission is to share our Christian "beliefs" with others; not to make the world a better place. Not to physically do things to help people with their real physical, mental and emotional needs. Instead, we are primarily called to help them with their "spiritual" needs -- this is the heart of "missions" in most churches.
That's just nothing like what Jesus had in mind. Sharing God's Word is important; but not enough. Sharing God's love is equally powerful, important and necessary. And by sharing God's love; His word is spoken through us. Sharing God's love is about real actions to help people and our world.
In summary, we are called to be disciples of Jesus. To follow him; live as he lived. Our first, and most important commandment is to love. Love God and love our fellow man.
We need a church that is less self-righteousness and has fewer pious words and more love for God and for our neighbors.
A Few Final Questions
What does it mean to pursue Christian justice in our society today?
How can we best attack hunger, poverty, illness, unjust dealings?
What does it mean if we support public policies that increase poverty, illness, environmental degradation, hunger, increasing riches for the rich, etc?
Those are the questions most Christians don't want to discuss.