Tonight my wife Jessica is away enjoying her birthday present I got her. What is better than a day away from me? Jessica enjoying a spa day gave me a chance to be with Anna and Judah alone. Trying at times, but a time I truly enjoy. What better way to celebrate time with children than watching Star Wars. Is there really a better way to bond with your kids than to watch the greatest movie saga with them. We watched the newest Star Wars because the kids had not seen it yet.
After we watched the movie, I popped in the bonus disc to watch the bonus footage. One of the segments was a fundraiser they are promoting; Force For Change. Basically Lucas Films teamed up with a few charitable organizations to raise money. According to the web site they have raised over $10,000,000. Thats a lot of money that many people have benefited from. These charitable organizations should be supported with our gifts because they truly help others. However, this got me thinking, as Christians we are to help the poor, sick, widow, and orphan whenever we get the chance, but how are we different than these charitable organizations?
It seems that no matter how much money we give to charitable organizations it never fixes things on a grand scale. Even Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. As if to say that no matter how much money we give to the needy this is not the solution to the problem. Even some churches see that ministry is only helping the needy and the marginalized. We call it social justice. Social justice is a deep part of our ministry in the Church, but this does not answer the full question. If you think about it charitable organizations also practice social justice. So what makes Christians/Church different?
I believe the difference is that the Church carries with it the true answer to the problem we face concerning the needy and marginalized. We do not just give money to help the problem, but we set out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ which brings transformation.
Think about it this way. In the U.S. we have a big drug problem. Some think we should have greater punishments for drug users. Some think if we pursue the drug dealers themselves. This is not the real problem. The problem of addiction resides in the heart of people. If people did not want the drugs then there would not be a need for the product. Take away the need and you would not need the product. To do this is to transform people. We must give people a different reality that is greater than the want of drugs.
Now this can carry over toward a lot of social problems in the world, not just drugs. Think of sex trafficking. If people did not have desire to buy sex then why would you traffic people. If people did not have the desire to be wealthy, why would you use child labor. If people did not desire to be better than others, then why would there be racism. You see for true change to happen, for true social justice to happen there must be a different reality given to humanity that transforms their very being. This reality must rest in something real, not just matters of spirituality, but a reality that includes all aspects of creation.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God revealed this reality of transformation. But this transformation would take place first in the heart or very being of a person and then carry over into the body and to the world. God has promised this, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, and I will give you my spirit so you that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36)
A couple of observations:
First, God made a promise about what He will do. Most religions and organizations speak about what we can do. As if we could change ourselves. We are the ones who got ourselves into this mess. We are the ones who desire drugs, paid sex, and wealth. We are the ones who hate and kill others. It is a delusion to think that we could change these desires ourselves. The Good News of God is that He is the subject of our transformation. He saves us from these desires through the reality of His love in Jesus Christ. This is God’s promise to us. We do not promise to change for God, God promises to change us.
Second, in this transformation our identity changes from “I” to “We.” God makes us a people set a part who desire His ways. God removes the desire to find happiness and comfort in idols and gives us the desire to find these things in God. We do not seek God alone, but together. Our happiness and comfort is fully expressed in community. We begin to live in a reality that promotes community. We begin to realize that our transformation is directed toward God and toward each other. We are not transformed for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of everyone else.
We can try and trim out the evil in the world as best we can, but until we get to the root of evil, until evil is uprooted in our lives, we are standing still. We can take out all the evil dictators, all the drug dealers, all the kidnappers, all the murders, and all those who take advantage of others, but once we take those people out more will step up and take their place. Until the desires and thoughts of humanity are transformed we will always have the problem of evil.
So what makes us different? The Church is different because we reflect the image of true transformation. We proclaim it and live it out in our daily lives. WE live in the reality and hope of God’s promise of transformation found in the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church does not just practice social justice. The Church does not just help the needy and marginalized. The Church that proclaims and lives in the transformational reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection brings the Good News and answer to the systematic evil in the world. God does not just get rid of evil through the Church, but transforms evil into good. This is how we are different…