This week our passages talked about the poor, and we talked about the poor always being with us. Often when we think of acting out our faith we think of social justice activities, such as feeding the homeless (Neighbors United or Mosaic’s life on the Brick ministry), or working with inner city kids (like the PAC house does). But there are a lot of other practical ways for us as Christians to live our lives out in a way which honors God and by which we can act out our faith in day to day life.
I’ve been trying to think about what it means to be a Christian citizen. Citizenship is an old fashioned word, a word we don’t use much, but to be a good citizen means to contribute to the common good and bring about good things for society as a whole. I come from an evangelical Christian heritage which was a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand, evangelicals originally (in the 40’s and 50’s) didnt want to be seperatistic, but rather wanted to transform the world through the gospel of Christ (whatever that meant). They were responding in part to the fundamentalists who had wanted to preserve the truth of Christianity against ‘modernism’ and ‘liberalism’ by sort os circling the wagons, hunkering down, and tyring to keep out the worldly influences in their lives. But evangelicals are also for the fundamentals of faith– they wanted to preserve these as well.
So some evangelicals got involved in developing higher education (Trinity, Fuller, Talbot, Wheaton, etc), while some got involved in social justice issues (Sojourners) or even civil rights issues. Some got involved in anti-abortion crusades (Francis Schaeffer). Ywam brought bibles behind the iron curtain. Intervarsity, Navigators and Campus Crusade tried to help reach the college students on campus. JEPUSA (jesus people usa) took root in caprini green neighborhood of chicago and lived in community reaching out to the inner city. In the early 80s moral majority tried to make an impact on america and bring it ‘back to God’. Today there are new community houses built around “new monasticism” and other like communal-living groups, which is cool.
But for the vast majority of Christians, we live outside of such communities.
So how do we live lives which make a difference without living in community houses? Of course there are many ways to transform our culture. Christians still don’t see much connection between being a Christian and recycling, for example. Should Christians be more apt to buy a Prius than a Hummer? Should Christians be more likely to recylce than someone who doesn’t think God created the earth? Should Christians be more likely than non believers to be in better shape and take care of their bodies? Should Christians be more likely than non believers to take financial risks to invest in cutting edge neighborhoods, putting their capital to work transforming local neighborhoods rather than hoping for a percentage better return by investing in the bond market?
Are Christians the ones making our cities more interesting, more vibrant, more dynamic and thoughtful? Or are Christians generally not at the forefront, generally dragging their feet, the last to get it and catch up?
Its obviously not an either/or. But it seems that if we as Christians would more actively utilize our financial resources and our brains to dynamically invest in our communities not only with money but with thoughtful creative ideas we could be at the forefront of some of the development of new social capital in cities like Omaha.
Of course some Christians are– Christian artists making a difference, Christian entrepreneurs making a difference. But there are so few (compared to all the Christians around) that they REALLY stand out it seems.
SO the question then is– what do you and I have to offer? How can we be put to use in our culture and society– not only to help the poor (they will always be with us, and we should always help them) but also to be social innovators who live our lives as works of art to God– as useful fruitful beneficial lives which are a gift to God and a gift to others…
So– Are you a gift to others? Is Omaha (or whereever you live) better off because of you, or are you deadweight? Christians should never be deadweight.
I hope that God helps us see more and more how we can be used in this world, and how we can be used to transform the world around us– both spiritually and materially. And I hope we will see that as a spiritual act of worship to the Creator…