This spring I set out to preach a series on the Christian mandate to love, serve, and care for the poor and needy. I expected the series to explore the biblical theology and commands behind mercy and justice. I did not expect a clear, dominant, theme to emerge.
But it has.
That theme that I cannot escape, that the Bible will not let me escape!, is that their is an unbreakable link between true, saving faith in Jesus Christ and a life poured out in mercy, justice and generosity to the poor.
Over the last 6 weeks as I have prepared my sermons, and then in the very act of preaching as I am moved by God's Holy Spirit, I see and speak this same absolutely clear, compelling, biblical message:
God's grace makes us just. If you are not living a life of justice you have not experienced the grace of God in Christ.
Faith without works is dead. If you are not serving and caring for the poor, especially for the poor who are your brothers and sisters in Christ, this is proof that your faith is dead.
This Sunday I will preach from Matthew 25: 31-46. In this passage Christ speaks of the day of Judgment and the separation of the Sheep and the Goats. What is so striking about this passage is that Jesus says that one's heart attitude to the poor reveals one's allegiance for/or lack of allegiance to Jesus.
In his book, Generous Justice, Tim Keller, a preacher in New York, puts it this way: “But there is something even more startling about this discourse of Jesus. Jesus did not say that all this done for the poor was a means of getting salvation, but rather it was the sign that you already had salvation, that true, saving faith was already present. How does he show that? He tells the sheep, “When you embraced the poor, you embraced me,” and to the goats he says, “When you ignored the poor, you ignored me.” This meant that one’s heart attitude to the poor reveals one’s heart attitude toward Christ. Jesus was saying, “If you had opened up your hearts and lives to them, then I would know you have opened up your hearts and lives to me. If you were closed to them, I know you were closed to me.” No heart that loves Christ can be cold to the vulnerable and the needy.”