Bo White

Ideas and Grace over Coffee

A Grace Focus on Social Change

Since people caused the strife on the earth today, repentant people should, in theory, have a redemptive effect on the earth as well. There is hunger, poverty, war, and social injustice due to the hearts of people. If the hearts of people change, the world will change. If the church can be a place where people experience grace, the church will be a place where people extend grace. And the world will never be the same.

Governments are not built to extend grace, therefore, public policy can only mend the world. Humanity that relies on government aid will die in unbelief. This isn’t to say that state assistance is bad, but let’s be clear, without grace, the government can only offer filthy rags to a world already soaked in blood, sweat, and tears.

Amy Sherman reiterates this point when she writes:

The uncomfortable reality is that the Church needs to reform its welfare system for many of the same reasons the government had to change its system. Like the government, the Church has too often provided short-term Band-Aids (soup kitchens, used clothes, free groceries, and emergency cash) to families who need long-term, development-oriented assistance. Moreover, we have sometimes been bureaucratic and impersonal, preferring sterile or “clinical” outreach to humble, hands-on, face-to-face caring. Relief-oriented, “commodity-based” aid has its place, for example when a family loses its home to a fire or has a financial emergency due to unanticipated medical bills. What families struggling in persistent poverty most need, however, is our friendship, spiritual counsel, time, and love. Our outreach is sometimes a mile wide but only an inch deep. We do a multitude of good things-like distributing Thanksgiving food baskets or buying toys for needy kids at Christmas-but we fail to bring about permanent change. Government is not well equipped to provide time-intensive, personalized assistance, but churches can-and should.[1]

The church must express love well, experience grace, and extend grace, but to do this will take time. This is difficult in a 21stcentury world where time seems to always be running out. So often, convenience is seen as a right or core value, but such entitlement fails when we compare it to the patient, kind, love described in Scripture that keeps no record of wrongs and is in no hurry (see 1 Corinthians 13). God has the maddening patience of a master farmer who is never dismayed by days of dryness nor put off by weeks of saturating rains. While we may work diligently on a daily basis, we must live by faith that the fruit will come. But, God doesn’t live by faith, God actually lives by sight. What we see so dimly, God sees with eternal clarity. God is building something organic, though, but it’s not in the natural sense, rather it’s in the supernatural sense. A Spirit filled group of people, whose foundation and cornerstone is Christ (see 1 Peter 1-2), called the church, will make disciples of every nation, language, and tribe, who will set free the captives, reach out to the poor, and point to the risen Christ (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). The evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work and the evidence of the repentant human heart is found in an agricultural image, namely fruit.

What is the fruit of current efforts to change the world? And do we have the patience to wait for the fruit to appear as God sees fit? Try yelling at a tree to hurry up with the apples already and see what happens. The world is indeed changing, but not at the furious pace we so often advertise. And as one mentor puts it, “waiting simply announces that you’re not always in charge.”

 


[1] Amy Sherman: “Rethinking Mercy,” from Congregations, September/October 1997; http://www.hudsonfaithincommunities.org/v2/equip/publications/articles/RethinkingMercy.html

 

 

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