A Christian Worldview and the Poor

There is an urgent and critical message, a necessary and imperative report that must be made, that must be proclaimed and shouted from our pulpits, our seminaries and our churches and our rooftops:  Christianity is in decline in the United States, Europe and Canada. [1]  A little closer to home that means Christianity is in decline in your city and your community and in the neighborhood where you live.  We must ask the tough questions to find out why.  If there is any legacy that a Christian must leave behind in this world, any means by which she is known, it is that Christ is her Lord.  But to be more than an epitaph carved into a tombstone like a bumper sticker it must be seen like a light on a hill.  To do anything less is failure in the mission that Christ has established.  So again, I say we must ask the tough questions. 

The last four articles began asking whether we are living what we believe. [1] [2] [3] [4]  Do we live the Christian worldview we espouse?  As orthodox Christians, whether Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterians, and even Catholics, and (insert your denomination here) we can together confess and profess the Apostles Creed as our worldview.  It establishes our faith and has since the earliest church fathers of the second century.  It is what unites us (and I always want to find those things that unite us).  Of course, we have differences and some of those differences run very deep, but our starting place is the Creed.  Almost without exception, the Creed is found in all of our Statements of Belief.

The Creed, founded on words of the church fathers as they interpreted the Bible, is the lens through which Christians view the world…or do we?  Do we take off those glasses at times?  In other words, do we live what we say we believe or are there other glasses we are putting on?

You see, this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.  The manner in which we LIVE our faith in front of our children and the world around us is our moment of truth.  John puts it this way, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:8.

The infiltration of other points of view

Other worldviews have crept in to the Christian worldview.  Many voices shout at us to be politically correct.  And after all, who wants to offend anyone?  We are told that “Pro-choice,” is the only opinion that respects a woman’s body.  The latest demand is that we  tolerate other viewpoints-but the word tolerate doesn’t allow us to have an opinion.  Homosexuals should have an opportunity to experience love, shouldn’t they?  These voices speak to Christianity and say that the Christian view is narrow-minded, intolerant and bigoted.  Is it or is a humanist and naturalist worldview infiltrating a Christian worldview and demanding its own way?

The aim of what we are doing here is to begin to ask the hard questions like those above and to arrive at a unifying Christian viewpoint, one that we can live and proclaim.

You and the poor

So, let’s begin with an easy one.  How do we treat the poor?  Let’s make something clear from the beginning.  I am not talking in general terms about how the organization of the church or the entity of Christianity should treat the poor.  This is about a worldview that you live.  If you only view Christianity or the church as an entity instead of your identity then you are already missing the mark.  YOU are the church.  To the world YOU are Christianity; in fact, you are Christ because he is living in you. 

However, I said this is an easy one because quite frankly, the world and the naturalist worldview deal with the poor as well.  You will not be criticized for working with the poor.  But I can guarantee that you and the church will be criticized if you don’t.

Yet, there are too many Christians in the church who think that any form of social justice is something that interferes with the “pure” Christian proclamation of Jesus as Savior and Lord through preaching and getting folks into the church.  James, in the bible, dealt well with this issue in chapter 2: What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

In his book, “Surprised by Hope,” theologian N.T. Wright says that there are two questions to ask, “What are we (Christians) waiting for” and “What are we going to do while we are waiting?”  The answer to the first is that we are waiting for the hope of salvation and that the answer to the second is that we should be about the discovery of that hope within the present world.  The problem is that the world doesn’t even think that Christians offer that hope. [5]  The world doesn’t see Christianity as answer.  Therefore they don’t see Christ as the answer.

But providing for the poor is, fortunately, widely part of our Christian worldview and as such receives world acclaim.  The world noticed Mother Teresa in 1949, and awarded her a Nobel peace prize for her work with the poor.  Of her calling to help the poor she said, “It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.” [6] 

Our Christian Worldview and the Poor

1949 Nobel Prize winner for her work with the poor.

Consider the words of Isaiah, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?” (58:6,7a)

But again, this is an easy one…except for one thing.  If this is really our worldview, and if we truly are living what we believe, then the question must be asked, what are you doing for the poor?  What are you children going to say you are doing for the poor?  How do you speak about the poor?  Are you having exchanges with friends about how your taxes are paying for food stamps and public housing for freeloaders? 

That is bottom lining a worldview.  It is in what we say AND what we do.

The answer to the question: The church must demonstratively care for the poor.  Therefore, a living Christ like, Christian worldview, our Christian ethic says that YOU must demonstratively care for the poor.  In the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

Obnoxious warning here: 

I was in law school in the late 80’s when another student approached me about the Christian Legal Society.  We talked about our Christian experiences and our undergraduate degrees in which I majored in Bible and minored in science.  That led to a little debate in which he said that I couldn’t possibly believe in a creation story since I was educated.  I then asked if he didn’t believe in the Adam and Eve account, how could he explain sin.  He said he wasn’t sure if “sin” existed.  I asked him why Jesus would have come and died if sin didn’t exist and he said, “Well, that is the question.”  I then suggested he not refer to himself as a Christian because he didn’t know why Jesus came, if he died for his sin, or if there was a resurrection.  I frankly didn’t think Christianity would do well if he was the definition.

To that, can Christ really be hope for the poor if we are defining him and doing nothing to offer that hope?

 

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