Personally, I take great delight in gleaning new knowledge, insights and lessons from God’s Word and through various Biblically-sound teachers. I am thankful that God has created human beings with a rich intellectual capacity to think, reason, problem-solve and rationalize on the varying complexities of life. Specificially, Christian Scholarship has presented us with an unprecedented level of access to innumerable academic Christian-based resources. While I do believe that God has worked powerfully through Christian Scholarship over the decades, I cannot help but recognize a subtle but very real danger that it sometimes poses to the Church today, namely incentivizing passivity.
Do We Know How To Live Like Jesus?
It is no secret that much of those within the Church within the prosperous West has become spiritually-apathetic and lukewarm with our faith. One only needs to compare and contrast the state of the Church today to that of the Early Church in the Books of Acts to easily see the major differences between the two. Why is this? I cannot recall a point in time historically when Christians have been so well-educated and well-resourced, yet if we are honest with ourselves, it feels like we are missing the mark when it comes to our approach with Christianity. Despite our best intentions with all our scholarly teachings, our professional conferences, our debating with world renown thinkers, our academic book-writing, and our other academic pursuits, we have forgotten about what it means to truly live like Jesus. Shane Clairborne in his book, “The Irresistible Revolution”(Clairborne, 2006) puts it like this:
We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.
Even though this book was released back in 2006, Clairborne’s observation is still very pertinent to the way in which much of those within the Church still behave today. Paradoxically, I believe that our intellectualization and our scholarly approach towards Christianity has the potential to legitimize our passivity towards living authentically living like Jesus.
Living Like Jesus through Knowing the Poor
Like it is possible to know about Jesus without truly knowing Jesus, it is also possible to know about the poor without actually knowing the poor. One of the central reasons for why Christians do not care for the poor like we have been called to is simply because we have not spent enough time with them to really know them. Instead, we foolishly rely on generalizations and stereotypes to inform our opinions of what the poor are like, when the truth is that they are more similar than different to us contrary to popular opinion. You can only fully see this when you decide to invest time interacting directly with the poor. No amounts of literature can serve as a replacement with actually spending time face-to-face with the poor.
After all, how can you love someone if you have not spent time with them to even know them in the first place? It would be like an absentee father returning after his children have grown up claiming to love them, despite the fact that he neglected to spend any time with them to know them, let alone genuinely love them.
The parable of the sheep and the goats describes what will happen on Judgement Day with believers and unbelievers. Within this parable, Jesus likens our service to the “…least of these brothers and sisters…” (Matthew 25:40) as our service towards Him!
Beware of “Intellectualizing” Christianity
It does not matter how much you know about God or even about the poor for that matter, if you fail to act on this knowledge. Frighteningly, it is possible to live your entire life as a “Christian” who is a perpetual student of the Bible with vast intellectual head knowledge while completely failing to live as Jesus commands. There are plenty of people like this today as there were back in Jesus’ Day(Pharisees, Sadducees, other experts in the law). It is not wrong to desire to grow in the knowledge of God and of the Christian Faith, in fact the Bible contains exhortations(see 2 Peter 1:5-6) to do this very thing. What truly matters is what will you do with this acquired knowledge? Will you let it remain stagnate in your mind while it amasses proverbial cobwebs? Or, will you let it re-shape the affections of your heart as you imperfectly but intentionally live like Jesus commands us?
King and Lord Jesus,
Forgive us for failing to love others like you so clearly have commanded; please help us as a Church Body to live like You called us to live. Rather than staying within the comfort of our Christian Ivory Towers of Academia, I pray that Your Holy Spirit empowers and emboldens us to reach out towards those living within those hard-to-reach areas among our communities. I pray that You lead us towards action as You enable us to overcome the spirit of lukewarmness and apathy plaguing much of the Church in the West. Let your Kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven where the first are last and the last are first! In Jesus’ Powerful Name, I pray, Amen!