Tuesday, April 26, 2011

IF WE ARE THE BODY

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unrepresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26, NIV)



As churches, we are really good at doing momentary random acts of kindness.  We'll schedule a program or a day to feed the hungry, bring clothes to the poor or visit a nursing home.  But unfortunately, I'm not convinced that these expressions of Christian charity have actually become the way of life for us that Jesus intended.

These are interesting times in which we live.  State and Federal budgets are broken and strained to say the least.  This is particularly troubling to those in the special needs community who rely on essential services.  I recently attended a number of "listening sessions" on these government programs, not only to share how they might be improved in money-saving ways, but also to hear what was on the heart of those I serve.

Sitting in these sessions, it occurred to me, "Why isn't the church doing more to stand in the gap?"  In fact, I was aghast at one meeting where an inner city charity touted what it's doing, begged not to have funding cut, but was emphatic that it didn't want to do any more to help than what it was already doing.  I thought, are we really trying to help or just window dressing?  Is this how God intended for us to live?

The fact is that if you look at the entire word of God, there is NO government mandate to serve the hurting and less fortunate.  That charge is given to US, the Body of Christ.  We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, providing financial aid, helping those confused with what their options are, plugging people in to resources, and just spending time listening.  It's laughable that in the United States churches and charities are given a tax-exempt status, but we squander it on more beautiful buildings, huge church staff and fancier worship services.  Our real mission should be equipping every person in the pew to go forth and make a shining difference in the community on an ongoing basis.

What would this look like if we actually arose to the calling?  Volunteers would deliver people to church, activities or shopping on a regular basis without having to be begged.  Programming for families with a member who has special needs would be as common as the church choir.  Having people over to dinner without any expectation of reciprocation would be our delight.  And rolling up our sleeves to get dirty in another person's home or yard would become second nature.  We would more readily see a need and fill it or connect others to people who can.

Our entire ministry is built around supporting at least a small portion of the less fortunate in our culture.  Still, I never feel like we can do enough.  It is hard not to judge our fellow church-attending friends who drop in to help a cause only when it's occasionally convenient.  I am disgusted by the phrase, "But I'm just too busy."  In a society where we are more worried about buying our pets a winter coat or taking them to a massage parlor than delivering food to those living under bridges because of mental illness, it's difficult not to become overwhelmed with frustration.

Yet, if each of us just did a little part of the work, starting today, then the size of the job wouldn't be so insurmountable.  We are each an essential part of the Body of Christ.  God has fit us each with unique gifts, experiences and abilities to strengthen the whole.  When an arm is broken, it's inconvenient, and the rest of the body has to work a little harder to compensate for the injury.  Our lives as Christians are no different.  Are you willing to do your part?

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