When Helping Hurts | Week 2
Welcome to week 2 of When Helping Hurts. Here is the link if you missed Week 1.
I am late in posting this, but I have been a little busy. Plus, I have had a hard time finding the words that explain what I have been thinking.
This week was Chapter 1, which centered around two questions, why did Jesus come to earth and what is the task of the church. The authors used these questions to present a theological basis for the centrality of caring for the poor and oppressed. I am going to be honest, I had a really hard time with this chapter. In relation to the first question, the authors brought up many verses to back up their view that Jesus was about helping the poor just as much as he was about saving them. The problem is that I just don’t see that and the entire time I was reading the chapter, the verse that was stuck in my head was Luke 19:10 where Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
I really like what Kacie, over at The Well Thought-Out Life, said:
It seems like Fikkert and Corbett are trying to drive home that Jesus was not just about souls to the exclusion of the body. They’re identifying the traditional tension between evangelism and social ministries and trying to say that social ministries matter.
And… they do! But the thing is, I think Jesus came to save sinners and reconcile the world to Himself. That was His purpose, and thus it is the purpose of the Church and the purpose of every believer in the Church – to call all men to Christ.
That is NOT to the exclusion of taking care of the body, caring the the poor, taking on injustice. Those things are a natural outflowing of loving people like Jesus does. That’s the crux of it, I think. When we act as though injustice and poverty doesn’t matter, something is wrong with our hearts, because a true love of God will transform our lives and our churches enough that we will be transformed and will be transforming our communities and the world.Justice and helping the poor are a natural outflowing of the gospel and Jesus in us. However, it is the outflowing… not the gospel itself.
Caring for the poor and oppressed is an outflow of the gospel, not the gospel itself. Outflow. Yes. That is the perfect picture. In an attempt to awaken the Church to the need to help the poor, we have a tendency to overstate Jesus’ position on the issue. People take passages that discuss people’s spiritual state and turn them into passages about people’s physical state. We cannot change the message of the gospel to fit our plea, even if it is for a good cause.
Speaking to the purpose of the church, Kacie says:
…I think the purpose of the church is to participate with Christ in drawing all men back into relationship with God. Our love for those around us drives us to care for suffering as we live out this mission. That’s why, throughout history, true believers have often been those in society that are caring for the “least of these”, just as Christ commanded. That’s why the “Christian” Ku Klux Klan and Rwandan believers were clearly missing some part of a full-orbed faith…
The authors quote a respected Christian leader in Francophone Africa as saying, “You missionaries brought us Christ but never taught us how to live.” And I think this is it. We lead people to Christ all the time. We get people to pray a prayer, gain salvation, and go to heaven when they die. But that is it. That is where we leave it. But that is NOT creating disciples, which is what Jesus called us to do. When we teach people that salvation is it, why do we then expect them to do any more than that? Discipleship is a lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, which means we will love and do the things that he loved and did, which includes helping the poor and oppressed.
Finally, the authors discussed the reason Israel was sent into captivity and make the case that it was because of their failure to care for the poor. Again, Kacie says it better,
…I’d say this is missing the point. Israel’s neglect for the poor was a symptom of their greater problem – they’d fallen away from their God. Their rituals were empty rituals instead of worship from the heart. The central brokenness was their missing relationship with God. With that restored, care for the poor would flow forth naturally.
To defend their point that Israel’s sin was neglect for the poor, that authors quote Isaiah 1 and 58, but Isaiah 1 opens up with the central problem: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me…. they have forsaken the Lord, they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned their back on him.”
In the end I will say this. I believe we must help the poor and needy, but it cannot push Jesus out of the center of our faith. It is a necessary part of our faith, but it is not main thing. The main thing is Jesus and we must remember that.