The gospel and the call to hunger relief
    September 10 2014 by Russell Moore, Guest Column

    In the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples were often thought to be crazy. Bloody crosses and empty tombs and Jew/Gentile unity – all of these things sounded insane to surrounding world.
    Not only that, but these Christians were forever concerning themselves not with the powerful and the influential but rather with orphans with widows, serving the vulnerable and needy, feeding the hungry. These Christians always seemed to be identifying with the least “useful” people in society – those who had no influence or wealth, those who could offer nothing in return. It all seemed so strange, so counter-intuitive.
    And that’s precisely the point.
    The gospel everywhere upends the world’s expectations. After all, who would have thought that the ruler of the universe would be born in a feeding trough to a peasant girl suspected of infidelity? Who would have thought that tax collectors and persecutors and day laborers would be the pillars upon which the church would be built?
    The power of the gospel is often seen the most clearly when it is seen in all its strangeness. The message of the gospel explains the reason why we care for those in need: it is precisely because we believe Jesus’ teaching that “the last shall be first” (Matt 20:16), and we believe that the kind of other-directed servant leadership our Lord demonstrated is the same kind we ourselves are to model.
    And this is one of the reasons why the church has, and must, concern itself with feeding the hungry. Hungry people – and there are over one billion men, women, and children suffering from hunger around the world – are not just issues; they are people, in need of the grace and love of Christ, bearing the image of God, and needing the message and hope of the gospel.
    So hunger must not be an abstract, faceless concept for those of us in Christ. But how should we go about thinking about the call for the church to care for those in need in the context of our mission?
    We should begin by redefining our “neighbor” to include more than the families next door and the people down the street. We’re not the first ones who need a change of heart on this issue. Think about Jesus’ answer to the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” That’s a question we hear repeatedly in the Scriptures. One would expect Jesus to respond as Paul and Silas did – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Instead, Jesus asked about the man’s understanding of the Law, and the man replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
    Jesus affirmed his response, then pressed toward the man’s next question: “And who is my neighbor?” The lawyer was skillfully attempting to “justify himself,” (Luke 10:29), but Jesus did what he always does – he exposes idolatry and points out one’s obstacles to following Christ. For this man it was his rejection of his neighbor. In this same passage, we see something else. Often, when responding to the vulnerable, our greatest obstacle isn’t the question of knowing what to do. Our greatest obstacle is fear. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable has every reason to be afraid on the Road to Jericho. The presence of a beaten man tells him there are robbers around, potentially hiding in the caves around him. Fear, though, is cast out by love; love is not cast out by fear.
    The Samaritan has no reason to claim accountability for this terrorized neighbor. He does so because he treats him, a stranger, as though he were kin. The lawyer questioning Jesus rightly sees this as showing mercy (Luke 10:37). And Jesus says simply, “Go and do likewise.” To be faithful to our Lord, we must show mercy and grace to our neighbor.
    Some may fear that one small group or one church won’t be able to make a difference when facing a problem so overwhelming. And yet, through the cooperative initiative of Global Hunger Relief (GHR), Southern Baptists have already organized to take aim at the critical hunger needs around the world.
    GHR is one of the most effective channels for donating toward the global hunger crisis. All of the funds given to GHR go directly toward meeting hunger needs, whether by providing disaster relief, addressing chronic hunger, eliminating urban food deserts, helping women rescued from sex trafficking and much more. It is a concrete way Southern Baptists cannot just care for an issue in the abstract, but be a gospel witness to vulnerable ones in need.
    Our response to those in need must not be, simply, “Be warmed and filled” (Jas 2:16). We must love our neighbors – in every tribe, nation and hemisphere. Let’s embrace the strangeness to which our Lord calls us. Let’s be a people who care for those in need, who have compassion and love for our neighbors as ourselves.   
    The world may think this strange. But this strangeness will also be perceived by those to whom we minister, who may in turn come to receive an incredible gospel.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. On World Hunger Sunday, Oct. 12, Southern Baptist congregations will address the hunger crisis across North America and around the world. Donations received are channeled through Global Hunger Relief (formerly World Hunger Fund), which uses 100 percent of each gift to meet hunger needs. For more information, visit 

    9/10/2014 10:00:44 AM by Russell Moore, Guest Column | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Christian living, Global Hunger Relief, hunger

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