Tag Archive | social justice

Partnership for a Hurt-Free America

Anyone who grew up in America in the ’80s remembers the formation of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.  You probably also remember this ad from 1987:

A little cheesy, but we all remember it, right?

Suppose we were to take the same concept and use it in the church—only with social justice.  What if we could visualize the needs and hurts in our communities?  What if, instead of rock bands and multi-media and hipster pastors, each week we saw images of the hurts all around us? And what if, instead of in-church ministries and building projects, we put our time and money into making it better?

Just as media advertisers put their heads together to create a partnership, churches might do well to consider the same.  No one church can address every need in every community.  But if we lay aside our theological and philosophical differences, each church might form an alliance with an ecumenical agency to take on just one issue.  Instead of fighting over politics, spirituality, doctrine, and the right way to “do” ministry, we could change the world.  And that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Breaking Your Heart

For the last several weeks, our church has been going through the video series The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels.  Whatever you may think of Hybels or Willow Creek, there is no denying that this is one powerful series.

My husband and I have a small group in our home as part of the study.  I also teach Sunday school, and I’ve been struggling with the way the lessons have been adapted for the younger kids.  It’s not terribly active or engaging for the little ones, and I’ve found myself supplementing the core teaching with active play.  As part of my preparation for this past Sunday’s lesson, my husband and I previewed the DVD that we will watch with our small group on Saturday.  Let me warn you now, if you’re in a group and haven’t yet watched this one, please keep the tissue box handy.  You absolutely must have a heart of stone to be unmoved by the teaching.  Hybels is reiterating something he previously said, which you can watch here:

I remember watching that some time ago and thinking, I do feel moved by what’s going on around me, but I have no idea what G-d wants me to do about it;  I feel so overwhelmed by all the needs in this world.  As I turned it over in my mind, I realized that I cannot possibly take on all the problems of my own family, church, or community, let alone the whole country or the whole world.  It was then that I began praying in earnest for G-d to show me the one thing that would, as Hybels puts it, wreck me.

Don’t say that prayer unless you mean it.

Because once I knew what it was for me, I spent nights in tears and days searching for ways to make a difference.  I couldn’t let it rest.  It was like constantly bleeding on the inside.  Even now, I still have those moments when I wonder, Why more suffering?  And even though it sounds like an absolutely terrible thing, I assure you that it’s not.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  It is incredibly, unimaginably beautiful.

But you have to be prepared for it.  When you ask G-d to show you that one thing that crushes your heart, you have to be ready for G-d to put you into action.  For those who like military metaphors (I usually don’t, but I’ll humor you), it’s a lot like joining the Army.  It’s not something you do just because you think it will be “interesting.”  You do it knowing full well that you might be sent anywhere in the world, you might be asked to fight, and you might die.  When you pray G-d will show you your one thing, you have to know that you might be sent anywhere in the world, you might be asked to do anything, and you might even die for that cause.

I know what wrecks me, and I’m willing to do what G-d asks.  What about you?

Bearing Rotten Fruit

I earned my undergraduate degree at a small liberal arts Christian college in the northeast.  There is a line in the Alma Mater that says, “Her fruit trees loaded down.”  My friends and I were never able to sing this with a straight face.  Most of us sang it in the singular, as the only known fruit tree was an aging green apple tree near the dining hall.  It has occurred to me that collectively, Christians are often more similar to that tree than they realize.  The fruit we bear is scant, sour, or unattainable to people outside the orchard.

We might be approaching the idea of bearing fruit from the wrong direction.  It’s often seen as one of three miss-the-mark types: obligation, evidence, or opportunity.  For some, “bearing fruit” is defined as no more or less than doing good deeds.  If we feed the poor, clothe the naked, and visit the sick or imprisoned, we’ve successfully avoided becoming the morally bankrupt goats of Matthew 25.  It’s something we have to do; it’s not optional.

For others, “bearing fruit” is the proof that we are real Christians.  That might include some form of doing good deeds, but it is neither limited to such nor are such necessary as proof.  It’s often nebulous, and might take the form of, say, not swearing at the driver who just cut you off.  There’s an element of somehow becoming a nicer or better person.

Still others look at “bearing fruit” as some combination of doing good deeds and telling people how to be saved from Hell.  I personally find this one more distasteful than the others.  The previous two options are empty, but they don’t carry the weight of kindness with strings attached:  “I’ll feed you, but you need to listen to a sermon while you eat.”  I’m all for sharing the Good News, but the primary reason for helping people shouldn’t be in order to gain their undivided attention to our religious views.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten how to just live.  We’ve forgotten to simply care for a need when we see it, born out of love for a fellow human.  This isn’t just a problem among Christians.  Governments, and politically-minded people, do it too.  We argue over whether taxes should feed the poor and to what extent, failing to put real faces behind the very people we’re arguing about.  The educational system does it, too.  Those at the top and those in the trenches fight over what’s best for the students, while large numbers of kids are not getting what they need.

Maybe what we need, instead of more ministries, organizations, and methods, is to simply let ourselves be drawn in when a situation arises.  Where will you see someone today who is hurting, sick, naked, or hungry?  Let’s make a commitment together that we will be the love that someone needs today.