TO LOVE THE POOR YOU MUST LOVE SOMEONE ELSE MORE!
Sometimes I feel like people put you in a box, specifically me. I feel this way when it seems they think I can only speak about the poor, or pigeon hole my ministry as one that is a song with only one note. I am not insulted that people might look upon me as an advocate for the poor, or for justice. I am indeed thankful to be thought of in that way, but it would be a mistake to think that somehow that flows from some sense of altruism in myself, or even anger from my own background.
If I love the poor, and I want to do that, it is because Jesus loves me. His love for me has created a passion inside of myself to love him. Non-believers might find that hard to contemplate as they try to penetrate the passions of religion, but for Christians the idea of loving Jesus is a very intimate, personal, and real experience. I love Jesus, and consider him to be real and personal and interested in my life; every part of my life. I love Jesus because I believe he died for me to rescue me from the just wrath of God for my sinful self, and his death delivered me from the bondage I was in to my own sins. I love him because I believe he defeated death and has given me eternal life. He has given me a lot, and everyday since he came into my life I have experienced the love and faithfulness of God in taking care of me.
I don’t think Jesus made me lucky, I think he is far more personal than luck. His blessings don’t mean I will never catch a cold or cancer, that my loved ones won’t die, that I won’t have trouble. I think, and know from my experience, that his love means he will always be with me whatever comes.
As I read the Bible and learn more about Jesus, I know that he loves and cares about the poor. This is so important to him that he even equates himself with them when he outlines the judgment in Matthew 25. He calls those who didn’t treat the poor as if they were him “goats.” Then he casts them into hell. He teaches us there that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, that we are doing it to him. So, if I love Jesus I have no choice but to care for the poor. Not if my love for him is real and genuine.
I read one interpretation of Matthew 25 as not applicable to Christians in this present age. This of course was presented with absolutely no textual evidence from that passage at all but as part of a broader scheme of interpreting the Bible. I just imagine a big slap in the back of the head from Jesus to whoever wrote that. I shouldn’t be surprised when some try to interpret Scripture so as to rob it of any conviction in our lives and practice today. It did make me angry.
I don’t love the poor because they are innately loveable. I certainly wasn’t when I was poor. I was stealing, lying, greedy, selfish, and uncaring about others, even my own family. I desperately needed Jesus to change me, and he did. I still struggle with my own sins, but I know who I belong to now, and I do love him, and want very much to be faithful to him.
I know that I cannot motivate people toward justice just because I make them feel bad about injustice. I know that I cannot make them love the poor, or move into the neighborhoods of the poor, or dispense mercy to the poor, or create industry or jobs that will employ the poor, or practice medicine among the poor because I somehow touch their sympathy and compassion. The truth be told our self interest often wins over against our feelings of compassion. What can change us? More appropriately the question is, “who can change us?”
His name is Jesus, and my passion to help bring about justice, reconcilation, and mercy comes because I love him, and know how much he loved me, and how he satisfied the justice of God for me, and gives me mercy everyday. So, my appeal to folks is not some cause, not some constant banging of a drum for what I think people ought to do. It is what Jesus is about, and if you don’t love the poor the real and present, and the real and future, question is, “how can you say you love Jesus and not show mercy to the poor?” What evidence is there that Jesus is living in us if we can’t see Jesus in the lives of our poorer brothers?