When you look at powerful moves of God in the past they often start through a preacher who had a heart for the poor, or they start in a run down area where there is a concentration of poorer folk. Wesley, the famous preacher and revivalist believed in Gods partiality towards the poor:
…..almost to the point of prejudice-He [Jesus] ignored all those who are high and mighty and wealthy in the world in favor of the weak and meek and lowly. He did this even in the moral sphere, ignoring the just for sinners, and in the spiritual sphere, formally ignoring Israel for the Gentiles. It was to the latter group and not the former that He found Himself called. It was among the latter and not the former that He expected to find the eyes and ears that God had opened, and therefore the men of good-pleasure of Luke 2:14.
Jackie Pullinger who works with drug addicts in Hong Kong believes that God has a special place in his heart for the poor and shows up powerfully in their lives to defend their cause – which is entirely biblical. It is so clear from reading the Bible that care and compassion for the poor naturally overflows from the heart of anyone whose life has been transformed by the Holy Spirit. If we ask God he will show us a way to reach out and serve the poor around us. There are so many opportunities in every community for outreach to the poor and marginalised.Just befriending one person whom you would not normally socilaise with and including them in your life would make Gods heart sing. If every Christian took the time to really study what the Bible has to say concerning Gods partiality towards the poor we could very soon have a revival in our churches.
Church has become a safe place where we nurture our marriages, where we hunt for the ‘perfect’ mate with the perfect background, where we nurture our friendships with other people like us, where we nurture our relationship with God through Bible Studies, 24 hour prayer relays, meals and socials together.Of course these things are ‘good’ but only when practised with a view to reaching out and to self giving. Church is also seen as a place where we give our children a nice, safe, tidy, clean environment to grow up in the faith in – but what faith? The faith of self preservation, the faith of self gratification, self improvement and self indulgence. The faith of ‘I will only mix with my own kind’ and enjoy the benefits of the safety, prosperity and ease of living which this affords me. The faith of ‘I will maintain a blindness to the suffering masses, and satisfy my conscience by doing a ‘good deed’ every now and then.’ Is that really what we want for our kids? I don’t want that for mine. It’s shallow, destructive and elitist – but the accepted norm within church circles.
Church today is a million miles form the Church the New Testament speaks of where the needs of the poor were paramount and Christianity was about selfless giving and not self gratification. Acts 2:44 ‘All the believers were gathered together and had everything in common.Selling their possessions and goods they gave to everyone as he had need.’ The Bible envisaged a group of Christians sharing their lives with the poor and broken, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, binding up the broken hearted and sacrificing ‘ the good life’ for the lives of those less fortunate. To this kind of community God says he will add to their number every day. (Acts 2:47) I’m not proposing we all move in together but it would be nice if we could be more generous both with our possessions our time and our money, hold them lightly and give where there is a need.
The church today often claims to be a ‘ family’ but in my experience the family does not ‘include’ the poor/marginalised. I see a prevailing attitude of me, me, me. What I think I deserve and what I think God is going to give me because I’m moral and upright. This makes God want to ‘spew’ (Rev 3:16) -People who profess to belong to Christ but act in the above manner, God says he will ‘throw up’
This is the very opposite of a true christian heart which says:
‘I will lay it all down for you God and for your Kingdom to come into my life and work through it. If necessary I will embrace suffering, lonliness,brokeness, disappointment and loss for you Jesus. However you require me to beused for the building of your Kingdom – I submit.’
Church to the poor feels like a ‘middle class’ club to which they have no part of and no understanding of. Most of the poor disenfranchised and marginalised people in the UK do not go to church and if they do they soon realise it’s not somewhere where they will ever feel at home. They know instinctively their views will not be heard, they will not be included – well only superficially, they will be made to feel small and even more insignificant than their broken and decimated lives already make them feel – they don’t’ stay.
NB Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matt11:19) ‘Friend’ implies: A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade. Jesus wants us to be friends of sinners to lead them to the cross, to love them and lay down our lives and comforts for them – as he did.