Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

The Kingdom of God: Fighting for sewers?    (2/1/2015 1)

Many parts of Brazil need sewers. If your only toilet is a pit dug in the garden, just yards from another pit which is your water well, you’re storing up trouble. The only answer is a proper sewage system and piped clean water.

I once went to Brazil to visit the Base Communities: small, informal Christian groups, of which there were many, many thousands throughout the country. They were church people meeting to read the Bible (which was new to most of them). They read it in the context of their often very poor and landless communities.  What they were discovering was how much the Bible says about God’s love for the poor and oppressed, and also about practical things like clean water.

So having read what God wanted for them, they went out to make it happen. They were great campaigners and activists: they pestered politicians; they bullied their representatives; they dug drainage ditches; they fought for women’s rights. And they had many successes.

But one of the most striking things was that they’d work with anyonewho sought the same results. They would even team up with the local Communist cells to get a stronger voice and to get more done. And it worked, too!

It’s hard to say whether that’s exactly what Jesus himself would have done. But they believed it was, and I think they were right. As we’ve been thinking over the last few weeks about the Kingdom that Jesus talked about, we may have picked up the sense that Jesus was concerned for the good of the whole community, especially the most vulnerable.

He would have wanted safe and healthy living conditions: those are values of the Kingdom, just as much as things like humility and service. So a community which builds an efficient sewage system brings the Kingdom a little nearer, having expressed the love and concern which are at the heart of God.

But what about working with those who don’t share your faith? In a remarkable conversation with his disciples about someone doing good things while not one of the Jesus crowd, Jesus said: “Whoever is not against us is for us”. In other words, if they’re not working against us, and they share the same goals, work with them!

Christians don’t have a monopoly on Christian standards or Kingdom values. Others may share them without using any of that language. And anyone working in that direction (and very many people do) is bringing God’s Kingdom nearer, helping to answer the prayer that God’s Kingdom will come. We rejoice in all good work that is done to make a better world!

From a Christian perspective there is, of course, a good deal more to the Kingdom than providing sewers, but that in itself is a step in the right direction—for the well-being of all God’s children.

Pray: (If you can’t pray all of this prayer, perhaps you can pray some of it.)  Thank you, Lord, for healthy living conditions, for medical care, for safe water to drink. Thank you for those who work to make our lives even safer and better, and for those who work to meet our basic needs. Help those who do not have even the simplest necessities that we take for granted, and help those who work with them. Amen.

Think about: Have you tried reading the Bible through the eyes of the poor, the refugee or the despairing?  Many of those who wrote the Bible were people like that.

Challenge: It’s one thing to read the Bible; it’s something else to do it. Is there some area of need that you could do something practical to help now, perhaps inspired by what you have read? Some people have a special calling from God to help the poor or vulnerable. Could that be you? Perhaps you could pray about it. 

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