Editor's note: This is the final installment of a three-part series looking at What Does God Care About? What has He called us to care about? What has He commissioned us to do? What should be our practical response? Last week we examined the power and responsibility of stewardship and its impact on justice. we focused on who God cares about. Today, Michelle Melchor, Cru Inner City team director for Atlanta, closes us out with a call to action to the church, and how we should work together to help others flourish. Specifically, what is Cru Inner City, in collaboration with our partner organizations, doing to share God's love through biblical justice?
In this three-part series, we have looked at God's heart for justice, rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, how Jesus' death on the cross justifies us by satisfying God's holiness and breaks down the barrier between us and God caused by Adam and Eve's sin. We have discussed who God cares about — the poor, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, anyone who is vulnerable to injustice.
Now we want to discover how, as individual Christians and the body of Christ, we can bring to life God's heart for justice in our communities and cities by adhering to three key biblical principles: the Great Commission, the Great Commandment and the Great Concern.
Most of us are familiar with Jesus' parting words to His disciples.
"I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20, New Living Translation, emphasis mine).
|“… injustice can be a barrier to hearing and receiving the gospel. When a person is forced to the survival level, it’s hard to hear what’s being said over the growling of an empty stomach, the cries of a child or the pain and outrage of unjust treatment.”||So often we interpret this to mean go and evangelize. Jesus clearly said make disciples and teach those disciples to obey all of His commands. Of course, disciple making includes introducing others to Christ. As we make disciples we must also teach them to do justice and love mercy as He told us in Micah 6:8. Caring for the poor, the marginalized and oppressed should be seen as a vital and normal part of the Christian life.|
This is key because injustice can be a barrier to hearing and receiving the gospel. When a person is forced to the survival level, it's hard to hear what's being said over the growling of an empty stomach, the cries of a child or the pain and outrage of unjust treatment.
Hagar was the Egyptian slave of Sarah, the wife of Abraham. She was coerced into bearing a son for her master. When Sarah forced Hagar out into the wilderness, pregnant and alone, Genesis 16 tells us the angel of the Lord — Jesus — found her and told her to go back to her mistress. He would bless her unborn son whom she was to name Ishmael, which means God hears, "for the Lord has heard your cry of distress" (Genesis 16:13, NLT). Hagar named the spring where she met the Lord, "the well of the Living One who sees me." God saw Hagar in her desperation and heard the cry of a lonely, frightened slave woman. He comforted and strengthened her to go back to a difficult situation.
As we work to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation, it's important to see the people in distress around us and hear their cries for help and relief. This is how we obey the Great Commandment — to love the Lord and others as ourselves — by taking the initiative to love those in need around us. So much of our lives are arranged to avoid "those people" that we need to pray for God to open our eyes and ears to those in our own families and communities who need a tangible expression of God's compassion.
Balvina and her church, Casa De Dios, partner with Cru® Inner City in Minneapolis to address physical and spiritual needs among the urban poor. She met Pedro, a homeless man hanging out in the bus transit area, while she was looking for someone to give a Homeless Care Kit. A Homeless Care Kit — a blanket, warm clothes and toiletries — is one of the Compassionate Products™ Cru Inner City provides to partner ministries, to help them connect to people in need with kindness and mercy.
|“So much of our lives are arranged to avoid ‘those people’ that we need to pray for God to open our eyes and ears to those in our own families and communities who need a tangible expression of God’s compassion.”||Over time, with persistence, Balvina and her husband built a relationship with Pedro; helping him find shelter, get treatment for an eye condition, getting him involved in helping others. Balvina observed, "I believe a person who has been under dire circumstances, they need a hand to help for a while." They had many conversations with Pedro concerning his deep questions about God. Six months after receiving the Homeless Care Kit, with consistent love and care from Balvina and her husband, Pedro put his trust in Christ. He eventually got a job, a car and reunited with his family in Los Angeles. But he stays in touch with Balvina.|
Balvina removed a barrier to the gospel for Pedro by simple acts of loving compassion and genuine friendship resulting in a completely transformed life. She loved God and loved Pedro as herself. She embraced God's heart for justice and concern for the poor.
What is the Great Concern? Proverbs 29:7 (NIV) says, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, the wicked have no such concern." Throughout the Bible, God equates righteousness with caring for the poor, the vulnerable and the oppressed. This is righteousness because it reflects the character of God and the people He cares about.
Admittedly, justice and poverty are big topics and there are many issues and millions of people under that umbrella. John the Baptist dealt with the issues of his day by telling the crowd of listeners to give one of their two shirts to the poor and to share their food with the hungry. He admonished tax collectors to stop taking advantage of the citizens and ordered Roman soldiers to stop brutalizing Jewish people (Luke 3:7-14). The Bible calls this bearing fruit worthy of repentance. Like Balvina there are things we can do as individuals to bring hope and transformation to men, women and families in our immediate sphere of influence. When we collaborate as the body of Christ, we bring to bear all the resources of the kingdom of God to fulfill Christ's mission in Luke 4.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord's favor has come" (Luke 4:18-19, NLT).
By partnering with churches and ministries in cities across America, Cru Inner City is reaching out to broken and vulnerable people, breaking down barriers to the gospel and softening hearts made hard by injustice. There are many opportunities to be involved in compassionate ministry: volunteer at a S.A.Y. Yes!® Center working with inner-city children; work with adults coming out of crisis in Adult Development programs; help pack and distribute Compassionate Products — Boxes of Love®, Homeless Care Kits, Easter Bags, PowerPacks®. For more information go to www.cru.org/innercity/outreach.
Your prayers and giving make a powerful partnership with Cru Inner City and churches across the country for preaching the gospel to the poor, opening spiritually blind eyes and setting the captives and oppressed free. In your city, ask God to show you an issue or group of people for which your church or a group of churches can make an impact for holiness and justice.
There is a formidable weapon against injustice that we frequently overlook or minimize. PRAYER! The ministries and activities above are critical to the mission of God in the world, but prayer moves the hand of God. This is God's mighty weapon to tear down Satan's rule of oppression, injustice and suffering. Try praying through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), asking God to form these qualities in your life. Pray for persecuted Christians in America — Christians living with violence in the inner city, believers who are experiencing homelessness, migrant workers suffering under unjust working conditions, Christians in prisons, immigrants coming to the U.S. with a faith tested by fire.
As we end this series on holiness, justice and righteousness, it's important to remember that loving God leads to loving people. The more we love and adore God and seek to be like Jesus, the more we will love people because that's what He does. In loving people we will steward our resources of time, talents and treasure to help others come to know Christ and flourish in all the ways God intended for all people.
Michelle A. Melchor is team leader for Cru Inner City Atlanta. She has served the ministry for 46 years.
What a wonderful reminder of how God has commissioned us to help others flourish. Help spread this timely message by sharing this link on Facebook or other social media platforms.
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