Won't You Be My Neighbor?

“How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?” Rodolpho Carrasco strives to show and exemplify the answer to this question in his ministry to the poorest population in his Pasadena, California community.

So commences the off-campus Sixth Avenue Baptist Church small group Bible study facilitated by Dr. Michael Brooks, a psychology professor at UAB. So, how do we become exemplars in our community in reaching out to the marginalized population, those who have been pushed to the periphery of Christian culture and degraded to the status of unimportance? After all, didn’t God’s outreach to the poor extend to becoming one of them?

What ministry does the church embrace – Incarnation Ministry or the Ministry to the Christian Culture? Has the church fallen into the complacency of embracing a cushy, memory-foam padded cross or the cross made from raw wood that scrapes the flesh and smells of spilt, redemptive blood? You see, as Dr. Brooks explained, incarnation ministry pushes the church to reach the marginal population as opposed to cuddling up the middle masses.

In the article on which the discussion was centered, Carrasco discussed the increasing numbers of those protesting for the plight of the poor.

Carrasco states, “While I celebrate this development, I worry that we are perilously weak at walking alongside the poor, at investing directly into the lives of individuals to give them what they truly need – not what we believe they need or what our policy statements tell us they need.”

He added, “I’ve found that it’s relatively easy to raise a voice in protest, but unfathomably hard to invest in a life.”

So we move into the concept of justice and mercy. Merriam-Webster defines “justice” as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair; righteousness.” “Mercy” is defined as “compassion or forbearance; a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion; or compassionate treatment of those in distress.”

So we learn in our discussions that mercy is the active part of compassion; thus compassion compels one to the action of mercy. Dr. Brooks further discusses that followers of Christ are exhorted to do more that acts of charity and certainly more than just “being nice.” We, as His followers, are given the high calling of “neighbor.”

We are not meant to sit in the cushy confines of the church. We, as THE CHURCH, are exhorted to be in the trenches, to be the Word in the flesh to the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the broken who have been discarded to the marginal, the periphery of the Christian culture.

However, just as the prodigal son had to actively pursue a way out of his predicament, so should people strive to rise above their conditions. It is not our job to take the place of Christ in their lives. It is our role to help them up, so they could reach for Christ themselves. Yes, we should expect those who want to be helped to help themselves.

So, when did you last spend time with those pushed to the periphery? When did you last get your hand dirty in helping them out of the muddy hole in which they’ve wallowed? When was the last time you did something that Jesus did? When was the last time you were a neighbor, in the truest sense of the word?

Today is a good day to venture into the sidelines.

Join us next week at the Homewood Library at 6 pm. Topic: “Sex and the City of God: How do we respond to a corrupted culture?” To obtain a copy of the article to be discussed, you may contact Rev. David Ferguson.