For the past few weeks in our student ministry, I’ve been teaching on “Becoming a Good Samaritan.” We’ve been challenging our students to answer God’s call towards social justice. The series has been great and I highly recommend the material.
In a session entitled, “Caring for the Sick,” a pastor who is HIV+ shares these awesome words:
I believe the Body of Christ has AIDS … We are the Body of Christ. If one of us suffers, we all suffer … And we are called to reach out in compassion [to everyone].
His words hit hard.
The pastor mimics the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” As I sat in my office and looked at these two statements, I began to ask myself questions, to which I asked my students: Are we as a church reaching out to others in this mentality, When people in our community, and even our congregation, suffer and endure hard times, do we come along side of them in full support … weeping with those who weep … or do we stand aside and watch as things play out?
What does it look like if “the Body of Christ has AIDS” … how do we process this … how do we live within this reality … how do our churches change, if this statement is true – if Paul’s words in Corinthians are true?
As I stated before, in this country alone:
- There are over 635,000 people (adults and children) living homeless.
- There are over 1,000,000 people living with HIV.
- As of September 2010, there were over 408,000 kids in foster care.
- In 2010, 15.1 percent of the US population lived in poverty. Of them, 16.4 million were children.
- The number of single parents living with their children in 2010, 11.7 million. Of these, 9.9 million were single mothers and 1.8 million were single fathers.
In the world:
- There are about 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty.
- There are over 38 million people living with AIDS. Of these people, 3.4 million are children.
- There are about 100 million people living homeless.
- More than 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Approximately 1.5 million of these deaths are in children less than 5 years old.
- There are 27 million people in slavery (more than any other time in history).
Now compare these numbers with this: 2 billion.
There are over 2 billion Christians in this world. Our numbers alone outweigh the tragedy within this world. Add to our number the infinite God and His power, and we are surely unstoppable. What holds us back is ourselves, not the poverty, sickness, government, or even our paychecks. Every bit matters. Every person matters. What else is the church meant for than to show and proclaim the healing presence of Christ to the world around us?
I think the answer lies beyond just throwing money at numbers and organizations. While Jesus did say that we would be judged upon the works we did and didn’t do (Matthew 25:31-46), He also says that we need to go beyond just doing things (Matthew 7:21-23) for Him. Over and again, Christ calls us to a state of being, in Him, other believers, and the world around us. Just as Jesus was incarnational (John 1), so He calls those who follow Him to be incarnational (John 17:18).
Just showing up, however, doesn’t mean change has come either. I think many times Christians show up to help causes and join movements, but miss the point of being there. Too often we attempt to solve the problem and be the answer. And while intentions and hearts are sincere, the issues at hand are more than a fad and the answer is greater than ourselves. Jesus must saturate the place we are in. He must saturate the hope we bring. He must saturate the message, our theology, our congregation, our mission, our outreach, our budget, and most importantly, our worship. Jesus Christ is all these things (hope, message, mission, outreach, theology, etc), and without Him at the center, everything we strive to accomplish is in vain.
The Body of Christ has been charged with great influence and gifts. The Eternal God who made everything out of nothing lives within us; He has equipped us for specific purposes and places (John 14:12-14, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Romans 8, Ephesians 2:10). In Him, then, we cannot fail or be defeated (John 16:33, Romans 8:31, 37).
How do we become a church that embodies AIDS, poverty, diseases, hunger, slavery, etc? My belief is that every Christian must come together as One body, for One purpose, lifting up One answer and living as One presence in a divided and fallen world. While it’s important for local churches to connect with their neighbors, an even greater importance is for the global church to connect as THE Body of Christ. Transformation happens within community, both locally and globally. Christ-in-us sends us out to transform places and people, not just provide aide for them.
We must renew our minds and hearts to this biblical concept.
We must step out of our comfort zones and into places that desperately need Jesus.
We must live out the command of Christ: love God with everything, and love others above ourselves.
We must be a community of believers built around the principles of Matthew 5-7 and the book of Acts.
We must follow Jesus Christ, no matter what it costs us.
We must be willing to take the Hope that resides within us to the darkest, sickest, poorest, hungriest, and scariest places. And these places stretch from right outside our front doors to the farthest regions on Earth.
We must understand that Christianity is not safe, Christians are not ordinary, and Christianity is not self-focused.
We must embrace truth: Christianity is risky and costly, Christians are peculiar and in-dwelt, and Christianity is Christ-centered.
When we begin to see the world through the eyes and heart of Christ, and move forth in passionate response, the church truly embodies Christ and becomes all things, to all people, for the glory of Christ alone.