RELIGION COLUMN: Why should the Church love the poor?

Published 12:50 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2011

By Jake McCall

The short answer for why the Church should love the poor is that the Bible is full of both God declaring His love for the poor and the call for the Church to follow that model. But why are those verses there and how should we, with wisdom, love the poor in our context today?

First of all, those passages give us a great picture of God’s love for every single Christian, rich or poor. He came and purchased for us our salvation, which is something that we could never accomplish or afford. He did it when we were undeserving, and He did it when we were still in our state of spiritual poverty. He didn’t wait and pay for our salvation when He saw we were making an effort to make better choices or become more spiritually responsible. We were poverty stricken and going to stay that way if it was up to us.

Christ alone lifted me out of poverty and has set me before the Father blessing me with eternal riches. It’s all grace and I owe it all to Him. At the same time, God chose not to leave me in a place of spiritual darkness. He chose, in His saving me, to bring me into light and to continue bringing me into light. I am ever-reminded that I continue to be a sinner, full of weaknesses and daily failures yet there are things that were part of my life before I was a Christian that by God’s grace, I now have a distaste for. That is not of my own work or accomplishment but simply because God has given me a new heart that He has promised to faithfully refine.

Therefore, I see two awesome aspects of God’s love for me:  First, that He chose to love me by paying for my salvation through the blood of His Son while I was still in spiritual darkness with no hope of getting out and also, He chose to graciously empower me to live a life outside of that darkness. So though a sinner, He has given me a heart that pursues righteousness.

So, why should the Church love the poor? Because we are the only ones that can. Unbelievers will disagree, but until God communicates the gospel to you, then you will be unable to communicate this love, through word and deed, to others. The poor experience two ways of being oppressed today. This is done both by society and by churches. They are either denied help and assistance altogether or they are helped in a way that keeps them in a state of poverty. Both of these are unloving and a contribution to keeping the poor, poor and keeping the weak, weak.

I am sickened when someone believes the poor should not be given anything because they believe they have earned their own way as if they created their own hands and minds and ambition. I am also sickened when I see a society that is attempting to create a class of people that are fully dependent on a government to keep them alive. Both sides of the coin are ways of oppression and pride.

Now I know better than to think that our Church has figured this out and has the answers, because that is far from the case and we are constantly seeking God’s wisdom with this issue, but I believe helping those that are in need must have two aspects: grace and empowerment. We should not have a system set up that sends the poor away for someone else to take care of, nor should we plan to give without actively working to give them a chance to break out of a cycle of poverty.

I believe that we should do whatever it takes to get them incorporated into our churches in a way where we will be the last church they go to for help, because they will not just walk in our doors on that day or on Sundays but that they would walk into the lives of our people so that they can be loved, invited over for dinner, given job opportunities, helped with their children, and, most importantly, taught the truth about God’s love through Christ. And as a result, those that were once in poverty will soon lead others out of that terrible place.

For remember, both you and I were led to Christ by someone who was once lost and experienced the freedom of being brought out of darkness.

Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is the pastor of Grace Fellowship in Clanton.