Judgmental, hypocritical, anti-gay. Millennials choose those three words to describe the church. In an era of people increasingly losing faith and a construction of personal realities (which is really just a submission to some other evangelical force), building the church can be hard. Especially with such a bad reputation.
So often our words are hypocritical and judgmental that sometimes I think it is better to let our actions do the talking. Though they may not be perfect, I think they often do a great job of convincing people to follow Jesus.
We want to be incarnational. By that I mean we want to be the body of Christ in a tangible way. The incarnation of Jesus is a great action by God to show the world that he loves us. He sent his Son to be with us, to connect with us, to die for us. Those actions ended up speaking much more loudly than the law that preceded them. The resurrection of Christ might be the greatest action of all!
During this season of Eastertide, I think we do well to let our actions speak for us. One of Circle of Hope’s goals this year was to participate in compassion acts all over town. We at least want to have four big ones. On MLK Day, we participated in a march for education equality, ending stop-and-frisk, and pushing for a higher minimum wage. And just this last weekend, we were doing our part in the citywide cleanup. Adorned in our Circle of Hope T-Shirts (and giving them away), we wanted to be known for the good work we are doing. Not so that we can brag, but so that someone can join us in a practical way. It’s not a covert operation, it’s an inclusive one. Those kind of deeds help us live out our proverb: Generating justice and hope in our neighborhood must be at the heart of us.
We hope compassion is among the first things people notice about us. As I mentioned before, when people notice our compassion, I think Jesus gets a good reputation. Our good work benefits not just our mission, but the world’s view of the church and Christians. We are doing our part in undoing the reputation that the church repeatedly tattoos itself with.
Whether rich or poor we are united in demonstrating the gospel through justice, not merely talking about it. More than just a matter of theology and doctrine, we want the gospel to be known through what we are doing and demonstrating. Say all you want about the resurrection of Jesus, but if you aren’t practicing it and resurrecting the dying world around you, I’m not sure how convincing you will be.
We are obliged to speak out against unjust laws and practices that oppress people and ruin creation. Though I’m not sure that the government and the state offer us the best way to change the world, their laws and practices can certainly hurt the world and the people in it. I think our job is to be conscious of what they are doing and pressure them to do the right thing. They are too powerful to ignore. Part of being the alternative is telling the powers that be about what we are doing and hoping they’ll change their minds.
We do not generally hand out resources; we extend a resourceful hand. We want to create systematic changes, not just ones that put Band-Aids on problems. By transforming people, Jesus makes them owners of the family business, not just consumers.
In the United States the sin of racism impacts all we experience. It is a fact of life for which the dominators are accountable. The greatest sin of the United States is racism. It’s an old, hundreds-year-old scar that affects all of us. If we aren’t set on embracing people into the New Humanity and New Creation, we are missing a major philosophical road block for many people.
Our compassion teams and mission teams have the “right to die,” that is, they are not obligated to create a permanent program with interchangeable participants. Finally, our compassionate efforts are not the result of an obligation from headquarters. They weren’t born in a steering committee meeting or in a board room. They are the result of your passion. If you want to do something, we’ll give you the resources, advertising, and even people power to make it happen. If you are over it, we’ll be over it too. On one hand, it’s only as important as you think it is, and on the other, there is a time to live and a time to die.
The main reason I’m sharing this with you is that I hope you will participate in the work we are doing and you will tell the world about it. Let’s do our part in changing how people think of the church and the Jesus’ world redemption project.