How important theologically do you see Jesus’ compassion on the poor, the ostracised, the vulnerable and the sick?
I suspect that for many evangelicals this might seem a bit of an odd question. Sure Jesus showed God’s love and grace to all, isn’t that what we are to do?
While this is right, it isn’t right enough. I suspect many of us ‘localise’ Jesus’ words and actions to his unique identity and mission. In other words, Jesus’ extraordinary focus on, engagement with and care for those on the margins of society flows out of his exceptional calling and character as God’s Messiah and Son.
And quite subtly we take the next step of assuming, almost unconsciously, that we, his followers, are not expected to do as he did. Jesus was Jesus after all! Those that do as he did in regard to the poor and marginalised are exceptional and are admired and respected as such.
And so it goes with most evangelical churches in the West – direct engagement with the poor and marginalised is itself a marginal activity. It can be put this way; being active in ‘doing justice’ is an ‘add on’ to the ‘core business’ of the Christian life.
Or to go back to our discussions about the gospel – if the gospel is only about the individual getting into a right relationship with God (dealing with the sin problem) then doing justice becomes a consequence of being in right relationship with God. It is good, but not essential; it is additional, not necessary.
If chapters 3 and 4 [Jesus and Justice & Neighbour Love] of Generous Justice by Tim Keller do one thing, they should show us that far from ‘doing justice’ being a desirable but peripheral aspect of discipleship, it is at the heart of the Christian life. It lies at the heart of Jesus’ ministry and this all reflects how it is central to God’s heart.
– Far from ‘moving on’ from the OT’s concern for justice, Jesus stands in full continuity with the prophetic tradition in his passionate concern for justice for the vulnerable, poor and marginalised.
– His followers “should be profoundly involved with and generous to the poor”
– Like an OT prophet Jesus equates a concern for justice with the state of one’s heart.
“Anyone truly touched by the grace of God will be vigorous in helping the poor.”
– The new community of the kingdom is be marked by justice, equality, love of neighbour.
– Justice and Your Neighbour:
“Before you can give this neighbour-love you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite, will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need. Once we receive this ultimate radical neighbour-love through Jesus, we can start to be the neighbours that the Bible calls us to be.”