Prepared for a Grace Gathering of Grace Church of Philly:
In Matthew 25:31-46, our Lord Jesus Christ clearly and unambiguously states that those who belong to Him will demonstrate this fact by ministering to the “least of these”: the poor, the hungry, the sick, the naked, the prisoner, the stranger.
Just as the new birth event produces evidence of its occurrence like church attendance, Bible reading and study, a prayer life, and a thirst for spiritual things (frequently called the “fruit” of salvation), Jesus indicates that the fact of your new life in Him necessarily manifests in a life of service to the poor and needy.
Many within the American Christian community have erected an intricate and artificial network of barriers that prevent them from living out their faith commitment by serving the poor and homeless.
In the coming days, Lord willing, we will be investigating and discussing these barriers and their ultimate illegitimacy.
My desire in so doing is to create in us a sense of Holy Spirit-induced urgency to live out our identities in Christ in a fuller way by ministering to the poor as a regular part of our Christian existence. It is my firm belief that service to the poor is not some special spiritual “calling,” but a normative part of the Christian life, just like attending church or praying or reading your Bible.
Some of the artificial blockades to mercy ministry that we will be exploring in the coming weeks include: ignorance (about homeless people themselves, the homeless experience, and the causes of homelessness), suburbolationism (chronic, generational suburban isolation caused by the flight from and continuing purposeful avoidance of urban areas), recent conservative Christian church tradition, fear (of homeless people, of new situations, of outreach and evangelism), pride, sloth, an inchoate (rudimentary) view of the church and its mission in the world, a defective and dishonest hermeneutic of Scripture, and defective theology.
This list is not exhaustive in nature, but is comprised of simple observations I’ve made as I’ve engaged with conservative Christians in the course of doing ministries of mercy over the last year.