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Tag Archives: persecution

The Poor … Where Are They?

I can’t shake the fact that there’s a hole in my gospel … and that I need to seek out the poor.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Luke 4:18-19, John 20:21).

So, my Lenten journey has me wrestling with a long-standing conviction: It’s not that I should care about the poor if I happen to bump into them. It’s that I am anointed by God to target my proclamation and emancipation to the poor and oppressed. It’s not up to them to find me … it’s up to me to obey the Lord, and get His ministry done. 

But, I’m going to be honest here (and VERY open to follow-up comments). I know the poor are out there. But I don’t see them in my circles. Where are they, and where do I go to find them?

I live in Arizona. Releases from the U.S. Census Bureau have shown that Arizona has the 6th worst poverty rate in the nation.  The percentage of people living below the poverty level in 2011 was around 20%, representing over 1.2 million Arizona residents.

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20%? It doesn’t seem like that to me. But that’s because I don’t live in an among the poor. The reality is that poverty in Arizona is primarily found in the American Indian or Hispanic communities.  The poverty rate on some native American reservations is as high as 47%. Nearly to 30% of the Hispanic population of Arizona lives in poverty … and that’s 30% of Arizona’s 6.4 million residents … 1,920,000 hispanics living in poverty.

ImageI guess I could try really hard to find some easier-to-deal-with, culturally accessible poor people who are more like me. But I think that would be pathetic. I’m kidding myself to think that I can “fill the hole in my gospel” by remaining in my antiseptic, white, middle-class ghetto. If I’m to bless the poor, I’ve got to get out of my world, and venture into others.

I’m blessed that the Christ did this for me. I was the poor, blind, oppressed captive, and it was all my fault – the cause and affect of my sin. But Christ left the comforts of His community to enter mine. And it didn’t go well for Him, physically speaking. He has told us, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me,they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). I think that means …

You’re anointed to go. I send you like the Father sent me. They persecuted me…they’ll persecute you.

Who’s in? (They didn’t tell me about this at the Seeker Sensitive church … ) I’m not at all sure how I might do this, but it’s my Lent. Hmmm.

 
 

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Ninth Day of Christmastide ’14

Number 9“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21).

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We celebrate the birth of Jesus because He is absolutely and wonderfully good. He never sinned. He never did anything to hurt anyone. He loved everyone, especially the unlovely. He provided food. He healed. He even raised people from the dead. A nicer person has never been known, and a more magnificent life has never been lived.

But, as we all know, Jesus’ life was marked by antagonism. From His rocky birth story (road trip, manger, refugees in Egypt, escaping infanticide) to His adult years (theological controversy, political disagreement, execution, abandonment, doubt), this good man was constantly dealing with bad responses.

V - ScroogeWhen Jesus began his teaching ministry, one of the first things He said was “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12).

V - PotterIn other words, this is no surprise. It’s written in stone. Good comes into our fallen world, and the natural reaction is that it gets beat up.

It should not surprise us that God’s entering His own world through the incarnation should end with conflict. It should also not surprise us that, in as much as God abides in and sanctifies us, we are destined for adversity, too.

V - BurgerSo, Paul’s words today are an appropriate Christmastide reminder. Life on the planet is full of fighting, much of it over limited resources which leave us hungry and thirsty. As the arrogant attack one another, it leaves us in tears. These are the conditions of Jesus’ coming to Bethlehem, and they remain the conditions of our day-to-day experience.

V - FarkusHow will we mange these conditions? Is there hope? For Jesus, it ended in death. Will it be the same for us? If so, is Christmas really a good thing, or is it just getting into a fight that we’re destined to lose? The last words of the verse give us our hope: “Overcome evil with good.” It’s possible.

V - GrinchIn fact, it’s promised. It won’t happen completely until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we attempt to live our lives well … as well as Jesus did, that’s the goal … knowing that, for now, we’ll experience Jesus-like reactions. But, like Jesus, along the way, there are moments of wonder, of redemption, of glory for the Father.

Merry Christmas! Christ has come. Now, put on your armor…it’s more dangerous out there than ever.

 

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