Over the past couple of years, I have developed a bitterness and anger towards what we as Americans call church. These feelings do not come from what I see the church here accomplishing, but rather the lack of what we do not accomplish. And you see, the lack of what do not accomplish should be the main focus of what we as followers of Christ should aim to accomplish. This frustration can be explained by answering one question: What is the task of the church? As Steve Corbett, author of When Helping Hurts, says it: “The task of God’s people is rooted in Christ’s mission. Simply stated, Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom in word and in deed, so the church must do the same. And as we have seen, Jesus particularly delighted in spreading the good news among the hurting, the weak, and the poor.”
Here we see our task, but it seems we make the mistake of getting “caught up” in other less important things. Israel, God’s chosen people, were supposed to mirror what the coming King would be like and attract people to God. And what would it be that would attract the masses to the King? Was it a fancy looking temple? Or a showy temple service? Or even a great music performance? No! It was God’s command through his prophets to care for the poor and oppressed. This is why God gave Moses commands for Israel to care for the poor. Things such as Sabbath years that would cancel debts for the poor and to set slaves free to try to start afresh were included in these laws. Yet, Israel did not fulfill them. In fact, they did the opposite in the worst way- by claiming to follow God, but not acting on His commands-what we may deem as being overly religious. In fact, God sent Israel into exile because of their lack of action, not the sins they did commit. A passage in Isaiah I hold very dearly speaks to this situation Israel found herself in:
Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices-what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations- I cannot bear your evil assemblies….Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isa. 1:10-13, 16b-17)
Do you see it? Do you understand where God is coming from? He is not pleased with our ceremonies, our sabbaths, our religious tradition, when they don’t include those who are oppressed and broken, those who are marginalized and shunned. This is what God wants. Not our bitter tasting religion. Isaiah goes on still in a later chapter:
Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Decalre to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and had not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. “Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed” …Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not the share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to cloth him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will try for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with he pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you send yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isa 58:1-3, 5-10)
The sense of justice this verse conveys. This is truly the heart of God. We must fight for people and become selfless. God was disappointed and righteously angered at the Israelites for not doing what God commanded them. God wanted justice and Israel instead gave the world a superficial religion, a mockery of God. So here is the issue: we as Americans suffer from a sin of omission. We are guilty not only of the sins that we do commit but the good we don’t commit. We tolerate instead of alleviate. We pick away at the stem the problem rather than dig out the root of the problem. We act as if all is well, oblivious to the real issues the world faces, when the majority are sick and lost. And to be honest I myself grow weary of a church who does not even realize what they are doing wrong. But rest assured, God says His yoke is easy and burden light. We must learn not to be angry against the church, for the church is God’s body. But, we must be aware of the issues we need to fix in order to advance the kingdom, for it takes a certain type of man and woman to do that. We must turn to Him to help us change the world around us and not try doing things by our own strength. Our hearts and mind sets must change from the American dream way of thinking to the biblical way of thinking. We must remember this: Doing nothing, does something.
What are you doing?