In observing the life of Jesus we see the highest example of love and care. In this love He not only teaches it, but also demonstrates it in His life. We constantly see Jesus being touched by the needs of people and then the power of God flowing through His life to serve the needs of the people around Him. For some, that may not be the most accurate interpretation of how to live life as a Christian-the power of God flowing through our lives for the needs of others.
One of the greatest problems still facing the church as spoken of by Henri Nouwen in his book, In the Name of Jesus, is irrelevance. The greatest needs of people in the city in the 21st century are the same as those of the first century. Hunger, pain, hopelessness and despair are still as prevalent today as they were then. As Rocky says in the movie, Rocky Balboa, “Only the clothes change. Everything else pretty much stays the same.” The question then is who will answer the needs?
For a while it was the church. That’s how the urban church had such a big impact in the city. As people migrated to the city the church and other para-church organizations responded to serving the practical day-to-day needs of the people as well as providing spiritual guidance and comfort. The church was the focal point of the community. As government programs developed in the 1960’s people sought the government to help with these needs. The church then slowed in its efforts to meet these needs. After all, the government had more money and could provide summer jobs for young people, Head Start and Food Stamp programs and free cheese and butter. I was a partaker of all of these things except Head Start.
As a child growing up in the 70’s the church was irrelevant to me. I received whatever spiritual guidance I needed from my mother and other support came once a month in the mail.
But with tax cuts of the late 1970’s and now being in an age of government deficits the question is who will be Jesus to people?? I know a lot of churches are doing community events. Washing clothes, and passing out food to the needy, but the real question is whether these programs are seen as something nice to do from time to time or are they a part of the core values of the church. Will serving the needs of people continue after the economy turns around? Will the church be seen as a place where authentic community is not just about turning around and shaking hands on Sunday morning or will it be a place where people with needs are actually members and not just periodic projects to make us feel good about ourselves. Caring for the needs of people should no longer be so unique that it is a Facebook post with a pic and a bunch of “likes”.
To the pastors of our churches I challenge you to lead your flocks in such a way that models the love of Jesus—even when the deficit bounces back and the cameras are no longer rolling.