Paying To Follow Christ - 2006
Paying to Follow Christ
A buzz word in church today is consumerism. We are all warning each other of it, and we point it out in all aspects of our lives and even church programs. We are starting to come to a better grip with what it has and is doing to the local and global church. There is however things that remain hidden that are sometimes difficult to see under the facet of Christian jargon and bible verses.
There is an area in Hamilton that is considered the third poorest area in Canada and the poorest in Ontario. It’s called Beasley. There is a church in this neighborhood called the FRWY and they are doing some amazing things to help this neighborhood and reach it with Christ. They had a panel discussion the other night when I was there and there were some interesting questions/answers on what they thought their role in the community was. One of the questions was asked wondering why they thought that the neighborhood wasn’t changing and what they think it will take to actually help it. This is a great question. This is the question that we all really should be asking ourselves about every poverty stricken area and person in the world. As Christ-followers this should be our first priority: to help redeem and make whole that which or who is broken and in need. It was interesting though that the government has poured millions of dollars into this neighborhood and there has been no sign of change. For the past ten years this area has received millions of dollars but to no avail, the neighborhood is worse than it was then.
There are a few answers to a problem like this. There is the government way: give them more money and then more money again and hopefully it will help them get on their feet. There is Christian way number one: pray for them, think about them and add them to our budget report. There is Christian way number two: send a missions trip there for a week or two and fix up a few buildings, usually church ones, and run a few programs. There is Christian way number three: have a special offering and send them a certain amount of money each month. I’m not just referring to local neighborhoods here. I’m referring to all areas that are in poverty or in some kind of other need. Of all the four ways to approach this problem, it doesn’t seem to add up to our calling as Christians and how Christ lived his life. While I’m not saying that any of these ways are bad in particular, I am saying that when that is it, we are completely missing the point.
Consumerism is the belief that consuming stuff is actually a good thing and is good for everyone around us. This results in other habits. When we start to get caught up in consumerism, we think that the way we get stuff should be the way we get everything. In other words, we should be able to buy whatever we need or need to do, and do it instantly. If we need sex we can get a prostitute. If we need relief from emotions we can get drunk. If we need to feel good we eat. If we need to be encouraged we can put others down. If we need to remove the guilt of sin we can go to church. If we need to remove the guilt of giving we throw some cash in the plate. If we need to remove the guilt that we actually aren’t following Christ’s commands to help the poor and the widows then we will sponsor a child and send money to missions. We have a solution for everything. We want to quickly resolve any need, desire or conviction with a swipe of a card, and to a point we almost can.
Consumerism has leaked into our job to feed the poor. Instead of doing what Christ did and getting dirty with people that we would never in a million years spend time with, we find ourselves sitting comfortably in our church pews dropping money in the plate. Sometimes to relieve the guilt it’s as simple as an auto-transfer of funds from your credit card to World Vision. I can’t stress enough that I’m not saying these things are wrong. I am saying that they are substitutes for many of us of what we should be doing.
In Hamilton, the government is trying to buy Beasley wholeness; they are trying to buy their freedom by throwing money at them. We do the same as Christians with the people around us. We substitute sandwiches for relationships and money for love. Consumerism is at its finest when we think that we can buy people back out of poverty. We can’t buy our way into following Christ either. People in poverty need more than just our money. They need something bigger than money: our love and our hospitality. Don’t stop giving your money; I’m just saying it’s not enough. We need to give of ourselves. These people need to know that they can come to you when they need help, someone to talk to or someone to lean on. Hiding in our private homes isn’t following Christ. Inviting these people that we would never in a million years interact with on normal terms into our private homes and spending time with them over a meal seems more like following Christ. It’s hard, its uncomfortable, its vulnerable, time consuming but it’s the way of Christ and the way of Christ is the only fulfilling way to live.