By Bob Simpson, BCM/D Associate Executive Director, BaptistLIFE Editor
If the definition of “Christian” starts with “following Jesus” and emulating all that He did, then a brief look at the record of some of the things He did is in order. Even a cursory examination of His daily life as an adult reveals much about His heart as it relates to the poor, sick, racially divided, socially disenfranchised and forgotten people of His day.
Jesus intentionally went to Samaria to talk to the woman at the well. This was an overt act of love in the face of major racial and social barriers.
He responded in love to the ten lepers and healed them from the disease that had rendered them social outcasts.
When He heard the words, “Alms for the poor” or “Son of David have mercy on me,” He responded by addressing both their physical infirmity and their spiritual poverty.
At the end of his gospel, John writes, “Jesus did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”
I don’t know if we will ever know about those things. But if they ever could be known (maybe in heaven) I have a hunch that we would see an overwhelming preponderance of Jesus’ touches given to the “least of these.”
That passage of scripture from Mathew 25, “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these…you have done it unto Me” answers the question as to whether the poor matter to Jesus. Would those acts be defined as overtly Christian?
In a denomination that openly acknowledges that it doesn’t know how to reach inner cities or poor, why is that ministries who try to work with the “least of these” have to defend themselves to the same systems that have failed these populations over and over again?
Jeremiah 22:26 says, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is it not what it means to know Me?”
Perhaps the skeptics and critics of ministries to the poor need to rethink what “overt Christianity” looks like. It always starts with living like a king…the King, Jesus Himself! Doing what He did.
David Phelps, the former tenor for the Gaither Vocal Band, is one of my favorite singers. He has written a song that provides the best context for what I am trying to say. The song is entitled, “Live Like A King.”
My thirst for the things of this earth
Isn’t quenched by diamonds or pearls.
One Man lived the life that I want
He’s the One they said ruled the world.
Though He only wore a crown of thorns
And He never owned a thing.
This King did the strangest of things;
He befriended the sick and the poor.
There was no one too wrong, too right,
Too black, too white for Him to love.
He built no walls, left no unopened doors.
Though I could croon a million other tunes
There is just one I want to sing.
I want to be stronger, I want to be wiser
I just want to make every move be the one He’d want to see from me
There’s just such power, such healing power
In every word that He said,
in every deed that He did.
Let’s live like a king…the King!
Maybe God is allowing the current economic crisis in America to remind middle class suburbanites that many of us are only a couple of house payments away from homelessness or poverty.
Maybe it’s the test of our stewardship…money, time… and attitude toward those less fortunate than we. Maybe it’s time to become more overt in doing what Jesus did!