Why Community Pantries Will Never Get It Done

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Philippians 2:1-2

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

CONSIDER THIS

We have somehow come to equate our Christian witness to the world with the amount of good work we can do in the world. It does make sense, and it’s not wrong. It’s just not exactly right either. I mean, what distinguishes the service of Christians in the world from, say, the United Way or the Mormon Church? Is it just that we attach the name of Jesus to our service, as though that were a value add? Could it be our T-shirts? 

Jesus seemed to articulate a different strategy when it came to the way his followers would be recognized and known in the world: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus is not advocating for a different kind of service provider in the world. He’s building a different kind of community in the world. It is a community founded in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, a group of people who are mysteriously caught up in and illumined by the interrelationships of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The reputation of the church in the world will never rise above the quality of the relationships within it. In fact, that is the church. After all, why did Jesus pray “that all of them would be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us” (John 17:21a)?

Answer: “so that the world will believe that you have sent me” (v. 21b).

It makes sense, then, that Paul would put all his eggs in this basket.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 

Paul gets it—where there is great love, miracles always happen. Consider this practical example. Why do we put so much stock in community pantries to help the poor? A poor person comes to our upper-middle-class church for help and we dutifully send them down to the community pantry. What if we brought them into  our community and loved them out of poverty—helped them get jobs, equipped them with the biblical wisdom to build a household economy, raised our children together, and so on? What if the community of the church, which is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, was a place where the love for one another was so palpable nothing was impossible for them? Think of the witness this would be to the watching world?

Before I get angry e-mails, let me be clear. Community pantries are fine; they certainly help poor people. It’s just they will never solve poverty. Only a community of ordinary relationships building itself up with extraordinary love will ever hope to do that.

And yes, these places do exist.

In the end, the point of this post is not to do with poverty. It’s about creating communities of true abundance.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who makes it all so clear to us. This is about loving one another. Forgive us for missing the point time and time again. Bring us into the mind of Christ in a new and living way. We belong to you, Jesus. In your name, we pray, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Is this Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky idealism I am articulating here? But is this not what the Bible is saying?
  2. Why do we put our stock in community pantries instead of embracing the poor into our local church communities?
  3. Why aren’t we focusing on our relationships in the church at the microlevel. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I believe the answers to your questions can be found in a review of ancient Christian discipleship practices. Last night I stumbled across a series of lessons that appeared on Seedbed back in October-December 2014 by Steven D. Bruns on discipleship and the church. I believe the “Awakening “ will occur as we come to realize that Jesus did not come merely to provide a ticket to heaven, but to create a new humanity. These early Christians considered themselves to be a “third race”, neither Gentile nor Jew. The relationships of one family in Christ is going to appear a lot different than a weekly gathering of strangers who meet for couple of hours and who’s unity is based upon agreement on particular doctrines. Come, God creator, Holy Ghost, and bless us in one accord.

  2. “If God is Love, He is by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense” — C.S. Lewis

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