The Inverted Kingdom

Michael Spencer, talking about many examples of small, unglamorous ministries to the poor:

One day, they will be a big thing. On that day when Jesus comes to reveal his Kingdom, there won’t be any way to miss these ministries and the people who keep them going. He’ll make sure of that.

The one for whom there was no room in the inn, the one from forgotten Nazareth, the one with the unwed mother, the one whose infant skin was covered with straw and rags in a stable, the one who had no place to lay his head, the one who was the poor, the cold, the naked and the imprisoned. He will remember those ministries. I assure you.

You might consider dropping in on one of those ministries sometime. They do have one thing many big churches don’t have.

Or, to be more precise, they do have someone many big churches don’t have. And he’s not generated on a big screen or via special effects.

He’s the one I hope we’re all looking for. He’s not so hard to find, even if, in this world, he’s no big thing. Just think like Jesus, and you’ll find the way.

I can think of no better way to participate in the season of Advent than to reflect on the truth contained in these words and then act on them. Of course, Jesus said exactly as much when he stated “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” But sometimes it takes someone smacking me upside the head with a big stick of truth to really make it clear.

I need to make some changes in my life. I need to help my family make those changes as well. I need to help my church make those changes. This is not an issue of our eternal destination (although depending on one’s reading of Matthew 25, it might be). This is an issue of letting the love of Christ flow through me to a group of people he has a special concern for: the poor.

The incarnate Christ laid in a manger, helpless, homeless, and poor, in order to create a people who would live out the Jubilee lifestyle that God desired his people to live all along. But instead of being a Jubilee people, content with what we have and filled with compassion for the poor and the lost, we have become just another cog in the consumerist machine which has overtaken the world.

Unfortunately, too often I’ve chosen consumerism’s way. But it’s a dead end. I want Jesus’ way.

Help me, Lord!

God’s Broken Heart

I’m reading David Batstone’s Not For Sale about modern-day slavery. I’ve only made it through the first chapter, but am already convinced that this is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I’m not going to give a full review of the book, but rather just wish to share a few thoughts which have come from reading this chapter.

Chapter 1 is about sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. Batstone weaves the stories of individuals who are giving their lives to free women from slavery with the stories of the women themselves. In this case, he tells the story of a Cambodian girl, Srey Neang, who was sold into slavery as a child by her own family and by age fourteen had been delivered into sexual slavery. Her story consists of one despairing twist of fate after another, as her life moves from one nightmare to the next. It reminded me of what the prophet Amos prophesied about the Day of the Lord:

It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.

This girl was ultimately rescued, but how many others will never escape this life of pain and misery?

The Lord broke my heart tonight as I was praying after completing the chapter. There are so many millions of people for whom life is like the Day of the Lord described by Amos. There is no escape from their suffering – and anything that looks like an escape is only a gateway to more suffering. They live in extreme poverty. They live in slavery. They suffer oppression.

And God’s heart is broken for them.

God’s heart burns with white hot love for each of these little ones. His anger burns white hot at the oppression and injustice they face. And he longs to see his people be so moved by their plight that they cannot but act against it.

I am but one person, and my family numbers only a few. It is clear that we cannot save the entire world from its suffering. But we can help save a few. And we can pray against the strongholds which bind them in misery. And we can share this vision with anyone who will listen so that they too can have their hearts broken for the poorest of the poor. And we must. For this is where God’s river is flowing.