helping the poor, the church and the state: and/both

Last night was the second Republican debate, and if we had the subscription (it was on CNN), I likely would have had it on. What I want to hear from the candidates among a few other things is just hoow they think the poor should be helped. While I lean toward government (and government is supposed to be “we the people” in the United States) having some role both directly and indirectly in helping the poor on their feet, I think this should be a primary emphasis of the church. It should be a given: something that is regularly practiced and practiced well in the church.

The church, as my friend Allan R. Bevere has said time and time again, is the real politic in the world. The gospel of our Lord Jesus is as big as all of life. God’s grace and kingdom in him impact not only one’s personal relationship with God, but all of life, not only their lives, but the life of the world. God is leaving nothing behind in bringing judgment and salvation, making all things new in and through Jesus. And the difference the gospel is to make in society at large is to be put on display and seen in the church. Yes, it will be imperfect, and it’s not like the church has it altogether. The church shares in the brokenness of the world, but also partakes of God’s love in Jesus in seeing in its own life the beginning of being made whole. What someday on Jesus’ return is to become true of the entire earth when heaven and earth become one in him.

Societies will be judged on how they help the poor, the needy and the helpless. God’s concern for such is highlighted over and over again in scripture. If presidential candidates are not putting something of their focus on that, then I’m not open to voting for them.

Yes, we should oppose abortion and work toward bringing an end to women wanting them in the first place. But the pro-life claim is an empty one if it doesn’t include all of the needy and destitute. We don’t want to help freeloaders, though we don’t want their children to suffer. People need to see that they will be held to some responsibility; that they need to contribute to the provision of their families, do what they can. And try to do good for society at large. The wisdom of Solomon is certainly needed.

The church ought to be a center, we could say the center for helping its own as well as those outside it. We shouldn’t just expect the government to do it. That would be sin on our part. We should do what we can. Society is only as good as how it treats each other, not only toward the realization of wealth as in helping the middle class. But to help those struggling in poverty to be able to get on their feet and provide for their own and not have to live in abject poverty, struggling from week to week with barely if at all, a safety net in place.

We can be sure of this. For all our talk about sexual purity, and that is important, the judgment to come will be far more in terms of how we’ve not cared about the poor, the destitute and the helpless. The gospel and the salvation that comes in King Jesus brings a full salvation, not to be realized fully in this life for sure. But to be on display in and through the church. Even as God holds accountable all people for their treatment of each other, and especially the poor.

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