Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. James 1:26-2:1
It is a globalized world. The neighbor next door in America can now have an entirely different cultural story and set of values than our own. It has happened quickly, in the last 30 years; and most of us have adjusted in a typically human manner. We still want what seems comfortable, our perceived “normal”. We might blend in community in some ways, yet we still want to live in neighborhoods with people that have our same socio-economic status. We desire and feel entitled to have our family prospering with like-minded people. We have worked hard and deserve to reap of our labors of learning in academia and the workforce. The American dream of Prosperity has come to mean reaping in this way. Yet, how do we reconcile this rule of love in James beyond sharing words? I have heard it assigned to those labeled with mercy gifts or handed to charities. As Christ-followers, may I suggest that we are called to live differently and globalization really gives us the opportunity to stretch out of our Evangelical comfort zones and choose a different type of prosperous lifestyle. This verse explicitly calls us to develop and nurture an avocation of seeking and insuring justice for all.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged America to this type of lifestyle in his '59 Speech Before the Youth March for Integrated Schools... alas, it has been over 50 years and many American Christians still do not grasp this type of lifestyle. Many still think that U.S. law means justice… thus, we are still a separate, but supposedly equal nation in so many ways. This year, once again, Geoffrey Canada's commencement address at Penn State echoed the same challenge as Dr. King. Friends, may we, as Evangelical Christians, be challenged to a huge social consciousness wake-up in this country! Justice, as part of the full counsel of God, is not taught in many seminaries or modeled in many churches. I have felt jipped by this scenario, as I, too, bought into my prosperity as working towards the comfortable, achievement-oriented Western lifestyle… until God brought me an understanding of His Justice! I have spent the past ten years studying God’s concepts of justice, committed to change my lifestyle to a more just and wholistic way of living in my geographic community. May others bored with church being a Sunday experience be intrigued to join in… may we start a fresh movement of faith, redefining prosperity with ordinary people modeling love through seeking justice in community. We are called to a more prosperous life way more diverse and adventurous than another Bible study and perceived Western comfort. May we all come to understand God’s justice and choose to model through prosperous lifestyles of love!
1 ~Study Justice in scripture and ask God what he would have you do as an adventurous avocation/mission for Him. Most of us do not understand the systems of injustice that we participate in this country. This chart by Carl Ellis is an easy way to review where you stand before God:
2 ~ Challenge yourself to tithe of your treasure, time and talents… whatever that looks like – ask God! We do not pray enough… commit to 10 solid minutes of meditation and prayer about this area each day for one month. We could redefine prosperity in this country and reestablish the joy of serving others, as a beautiful picture of modeling love. And, it would be less exhausting than our current self-serving lifestyles many feel trapped in!
3 ~ Challenge your small group to an adventure and ask them to read a book on Justice. Many of the books by CCDA(Christian Community Development Association) members and others are good in assisting us to step out of comfort zones and address justice through love:
· Let Justice Roll Down ~ Dr. John Perkins
· Compassion, Justice & the Christian Life ~ Bob Lupton
· Trolls & Truth-14 Realities About Today’s Church ~ Jimmy Dorrell
· The Invisible ~ Arloa Sutter
· The New Evangelicalism – Soong Cha Rah
· I Have a Dream, Writings & Speeches That Changed the World ~ MLK, Jr.
· The Tangible Kingdom ~ Hugh Halter & Matt Smay
· Missional Small Groups ~ Scott Boren
· When Helping Hurts ~ Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
· One Church Many Tribes ~ Richard Twiss
1 ~ Stop your routine of church as a worship service one Sunday a month and go to the streets and talk to the Homeless. We have 636,017 homeless people living in this country, many are veterans, women and children. Arm yourself with a carafe of coffee and some rolls and go meet these folks that you drive past on your way to church or work. Go as a group and simply ask if they would like coffee or a roll to eat and strike up a conversation. Do not make any assumptions. My daughter and I always ask if our homeless friends would like a snack. We have learned that if they decline, it could be because they no longer have teeth to chew a granola bar. We must start learning these peoples’ stories.
2 ~ Adopt a public school in an under-resourced neighborhood and visit weekly, asking how you may best support them in educating their students. In starting, some weeks you might only walk the school grounds and pray. Develop a relationship with the school leadership and teachers… encourage them and buy supplies for their classrooms. Commit to stay at the school for 2 years or longer.
3 ~ Be bold and put together a racial reconciliation workshop/conversation on a Saturday morning. Most people within the white, dominant culture have not heard the voices of those that have been segregated against because of race, religion or socio-economics… We need to invite these voices together with us to have a better understanding of living a more wholistic, God-honoring life in America. It is a first step in reconciling our personal sinful attitudes and owning the generational spiritual baggage we carry because of our sin and the sins of our past generations.
1 ~ Relocate… move into an under-resourced neighborhood and help to improve the quality of life for it’s people through a CCD model. Or move into a culturally and socio-economically diverse neighborhood and commit to keeping it diverse. Our neighborhood in Chicago – Logan Square, is an example of that type of diversity. We have community members and an alderman that know that stacked wealth does not work any better than stacked poverty. If we can keep our neighborhoods culturally and socio-economically blended, we can continue to empower and learn from one another. And, let me be the first to say, hanging out and living with under-resourced people in my neighborhood has taught me more about the depravity of my own sinful self-centeredness way more than I have helped any poor person... I count it all joy! We must lose what theologian Bryant Myers’ labels as our Godplex complex of simply maintaining a benefactor/beneficiary mentality, if we want to live in true community. (Walking With the Poor/World Vision).
2 ~ Raising the bar… Relocate to a socio-economic diverse or under-resourced neighborhood, and put your children in the local public school; or, if necessary, start a new school. There are never enough good neighborhood schools! Do it with a group of folks so that your kids have friends going to school with them and you have support. May I suggest that we need to quit sending our young children out of their geographic neighborhoods for school, as it kills Community, God’s structure of belonging! All people, especially children, need to have a sense of belonging in a supportive geographic neighborhood. Restoring this concept in America could be an incredible adventuresome mission of modeling love for our young families.
3 ~ Really live, redefining and reclaiming Prosperity in the neighborhood where you live... No matter where you live there is brokenness... can you make yourself vulnerable to the brokenness? This is a beautiful example of doing just that by a lovely group in another Chicago neighborhood. Please enjoy and be inspired!
Just Embrace: http://youtu.be/lbzKDuOyTaQ
Just Embrace: http://youtu.be/lbzKDuOyTaQ
Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute! Proverbs 31:8-9
But, he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously- take God seriously. Micah 6:8
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? … Isn’t obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outreageous nonsense? James 2:14-17