Thursday, May 06, 2004

Injustice and Concentric Circles

Jake, I wholeheartedly agree with you that the struggle against injustice is both part of the Gospel, and something that we as Christians are called to when we claim to follow Christ. A great part of Christ's ministry was spent amongst the poor and oppressed -- kind of his way of saying, "wink, wink; nudge, nudge," while elbowing us in the ribs (I don't know about you guys, but when I read the Gospels, I think Jesus probably had to elbow people in the ribs all the time).

How this plays out in our daily lives is a tougher call. When ministering to middle-or-upper class families/kids/people in general, we don't see the kind of injustice and oppression that we might see if we lived among the poor in India or the Sudan. But like Andy said, and Jake reiterated, that doesn't mean that those who run off to live with the poor have some sort of "higher calling" or "spiritual maturity" that the rest of Christianity lacks.

There's this verse in Acts that I really like, that might have some bearing here. Dr. Newton was the one that pointed it out to me, so some of you might know it to. It's the last part of Acts 1:8. "And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Dr. Newton liked to use these concentric circles, where evangelism starts with your immediate area (Jerusalem), then the area outside of that (Judea/Samaria -- say your state, or even your country), then further beyond that to "the remotest parts of the earth."

If we follow this model, we could say the fight against injustice starts at home (ministering "across the tracks" in Huntington, or making trips, not "missions trips," but monthly or weekly trips to areas of Ft. Wayne that need food/renovating/painting/whatevering). This is something everyone in the church who is a Christian could participate in. Next, we could take more detailed and involved trips to different parts of the country, to work against injustice, which most churches already do. Oftentimes though, we skip over the initial step of looking after our own neighbors before we look beyond our neighborhood. (Local trips are cheaper, theoretically could have higher participation, and hold a greater chance of creating relationships where ministry could continue in the immediate future).

After that, Christ expects us to hit the rest of the world. The only way I understand this is that, every local church should be sending out missionaries to the world. Not just sponsoring a missionary from a para-church org or another church, but actually sending out mature members of the congregation to places who need mature Christians. New churches might not have the resources in place yet, but once they get to a certain point (whatever that point is) they need to begin. I loved how Heartland in Ft. Wayne was always sending members out to church plants all over the country. Once someone really starting showing leadership qualities in the church, the left for a new church in Florida or Minnesota or where ever. It was crazy, but God kept bringing up others to replace them, who in turn were called elsewhere, and replaced by someone else!

I know this doesn't apply well to a collegiate situation, but maybe someone else might have a suggestion for that. And while I would agree that it's impossible for any one person to be aware of and battle all injustice, I honestly believe that with the resources the American church has, we as a body could do a pretty good job of it if we all picked one area/aspect/place and threw ourselves into it with all our might. My point for this discussion is not that we need to rally the American church, it's that we need to rally our local church, and let that be our witness.


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