Monday, August 28, 2006

"the American dream" and following Christ

I heard a professing Christian medical doctor, who works in helping the poorest of the poor in Washington D.C. He was remarking on how we who enjoy a slice (or more) of "the American dream" without seeking to bring justice to the poor, share in something that obscures and is a hindrance to our fellowship with God. And how, when he sensed something was wrong, and finally he and his family went to D.C., and actually work and live among the poorest there, including those dying of AIDS, he then had a sense of really knowing God.

His thoughts were not easy for me to grasp. He spoke about the Old Testament prophets' call for justice (specifically, Jeremiah): while it is good for us to give to charities, what is needed even more is changes resulting in systemic justice. In other words, we need to be concerned that these people can and would get on their feet, and be enabled, rather than held down.

I really wonder about some of the money making in our country. How much of it comes at the expense of the poor, as well as those just making ends meet? People need help, yes, to get back up, and on their feet. But also to be able to make a living, and even have hope to fulfill who they are, as human beings.

Our individualism results in every person for themselves. But following Christ means every person for the other. It means stopping at the roadside. Cleaning up and bandaging the wounded man. And helping him get back on his feet. And not forgetting about him, afterwards.

As I consider how we live, even as those who profess to follow Christ, I wonder. If I am blessed with alot of money and a good job, how am I using that? (Or even for us who are closer to the widow who gave two mites, all she had to live on. Often the most generous are those who have the least.) And how am I using my time? Do we seek to understand the plight of those less fortunate- not only in our head, but in a personal, experiential way? Do we befriend them? And have them over for a meal? Is this becoming a part of our way of life in Christ Jesus? And if not, why not?


Ted Gossard said...

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?"
declares the LORD." (Jer 22:16; TNIV)

Jeremiah is speaking here, concerning good king Josiah.

The speaker (actually on a radio broadcast- and in an interview) quoted this verse. This needs to become an intrical part of what we're all about. And get more good works going, in the name of Jesus.

His point was, we all need to get involved, and for OUR own good, as well as for the good of the other.

L.L. Barkat said...

If not, why not?

I think part of it is emotional separation, fed by geographic separation. And part of it is comfortable ignorance. We just don't know what's going on out there (and I say this knowing I often nestle in such ignorance).

And part of it is feeling overwhelmed, like the disciples who responded to Jesus' suggestion to feed the crowd with, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?" (Mk 8:4)

...none of which excuses us. I think of two verses from Proverbs...

"...if you say, 'Look, we did not know this' — does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?" (24:12)

And, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it..." (3:27)

Ted Gossard said...
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Ted Gossard said...

l.l. barkat,
Thoughtful and true words. Thanks.

Yes. And God, on the one hand knows well our frailty. But on the other hand, he would have us take that frailty- ourselves- and learn to follow Christ in it. And in that frailty- or broken eikon is something by which he commends himself to other broken eikons. As I'm sure you realize. May God help us to go, and live that way.