Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Transforming Poverty    (7/22/2018 )

If your local streets ran with sewage; if your neighbours had no water supply fit to drink; if your children were denied the possibility of schooling; if there was nowhere secure you could live; if the only medicines you could buy were out-of-date remedies which no one else could sell, what would you do?

One answer could be what I saw in South America a few years ago.  All those things were true for thousands, probably tens of thousands of people, whole communities displaced and struggling.  Some had been driven from their villages by wealthy landlords, and were now homeless.  What happened next was that communists and christians joined forces to lobby and work to improve conditions.  Some risked their lives to challenge political leaders and people of power.

Many of these activists took their inspiration from the Bible, and especially from its emphasis on the needs of the poor.  As they met in small groups to read the Bible together, they discovered many stories that said that God was against injustice, that God favoured the poor and needy, and they took courage and direction from what they saw as God’s programme.

Luke in his Gospel, records the song of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  She praised God because he remembered the lowly, scattered the proud, brings down kings, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry, and sends the rich away empty (see Luke 1, verses 46 - 55).  It’s revolutionary stuff, and uncomfortable reading for many in positions of power.

But Jesus’ death and resurrection were not about narrow political agendas.  He is a challenge to all our agendas, but speaks for the poor especially, whether poor in money terms or poor in terms of power and influence, his is a message of hope and new life.  

What I saw in Brazil was powerless people suddenly discovering that God was concerned for them, that he was with them and for them.  It gave them the inspiration and incentive to change their circumstances by peaceful and practical means, to help their communities, to look out for those most in need.

if the cross of Jesus has real power, it is not just to bring us nearer to God, but to bring us in line with his agenda.  That may be a costly journey, as it was for Jesus, but it’s why he came and what God wants.

Salvation is not only about souls and eternity, it is about serving and saving the needy here and now, building what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.  Throughout history, when Christians have been doing their job properly, the sick have been cared for, the hungry fed, the homeless sheltered, injustice has been challenged, the hopeless have been given hope, and lives and communities have been changed.

The dying and living Jesus is making that kind of difference still.  We are called to follow in his steps.

Where we live, and wherever we can make a difference, Lord, help us to help those who most need your help, to work for those in need, and to share in your programme.

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