Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly
"If we do what we do out of love for Christ, why not call it that? Why not call it Christian Charity? Are we so afraid of using the name of Christ that we have to hide under a thinly veneered humanistic term to accomplish His will? That makes no sense."
My answer to these questions...
First off, "Charity" can be a dirty word. It implies and, in the real world, often is a power hierarchy. We, the Good, Wealthy, Enabled Christians deem you, the Bad, Poor, UN-enabled needy, worthy of getting a gift from us. It places the recipient in a lesser place - more of a parent-bad child relationship than a brother helping brother equal relationship.
I don't know if the anonymous questioner is or has been a part of a church that engages in giving charity but if they are, I'd be willing to guess that probably not many of the recipients of charity are also members of their congregation. That is the typical situation, anyway.
If you are a recipient of charity, you are often shamed (I'm not implying any intent to shame on the part of the Giver, just a natural reaction) and it's hard to long be a member in equal standing in a congregation or group where one feels shamed - where one is in the needy child position.
At least that has been our experience over decades in our urban and "needy" setting of our church and the churches around us.
Which is not to say that there's not a need for traditional charity, just that it comes with a price tag attached.
Beyond that, we are told in the Bible (Micah 6) that God requires (requires) three things of humanity:
1. Walk humbly with God (our relationship with/worship of God)
2. Love mercy (ie, acts of mercy or charity), and
3. DO JUSTICE
Typically, churches have been fairly good and mostly concentrate on the "walking humbly with God" (that being the focus of most churches) and relatively good at "loving mercy," (in most Baptist churches with which I was familiar, they tried to spend about 10% on missionary work which oftentimes includes "charitable" work), but VERY RARELY do churches talk about or engage in "Doing Justice." And yet, doing Justice IS an equal part of the three things that God requires of humanity.
So, there are some reasons for not limiting church work to simple charity. Biblically speaking, there's a whole lot more to it. And it has nothing to do with being ashamed of the name of Christ and everything to do with taking the Bible - and its demands for working for justice - seriously.