Last week I tweeted this “The church needs to stop talking about justice or praying for justice and start acting justly”.

To be honest I am not 100% I agree with it. The Big Church Day Out has been happening in the South and the North over the last few weeks. It has many key organisations like Tearfund behind it and they are passionate about things like justice, poverty and climate care; all of which I am passionate about too.

The danger is that for many people, those organisations do the work for them; they support the work, so they don’t have to do it. They can happily get on with their lives chucking a few pounds in the direction of these organisations so they don’t have to.

I am probably being too simplistic with this (or too cynical) but this is born out where I live, where the food banks and soup runs are crying out for volunteers, and when they do get them it is not always from the churches!

The church is the body of Christ, therefore we are imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5). Jesus is the image of the invisible God, we see what Christ did and do likewise. So what did Christ do?

Three areas:

Incarnation – Jesus became flesh and dwelt among his people, living in the dirt. He lived the Gospel as well as preached. He lived among the poor. ‘You shall always have the poor among you’ should be read ‘you shall always be among the poor’. Jesus was always among the poor, so should we be. But often Christians live everywhere but among the poor. Our choices of homes, jobs and schools are often made like everyone else. But we need to have different parameters for these choices, rather than looking for good school catchment areas, what if every Christian made the opposite their frame of reference; to live where the worst schools are? How did you decide what church you go to, was it based on your needs, or based on the skills you had and the skills the church required?

Sacrifice – for many people the central event in Jesus’ life was the cross, and he encourages us to take up a daily cross, but often we ignore that bit. Sacrificial giving is more than giving as much as we have to, but no more. It is more than money, it is our time, our skills and our energy. It is giving until it hurts. Too many of us are happy to live in comfort. How different would the people’s view of the church be if Christians all took up a cross of sacrifice?

Resurrection – Jesus rose again and in doing so allowed the Kingdom to break in. The Kingdom he preached about in the sermon on the mount, this is not a future ideal, but a realised new way of living and being. We need to live as resurrected people, as Kingdom people. Why not spend a few hours reading Matthew 5-7 and asking what would life be like if I lived that way?

Prayer is great, going to church and listening to sermons is commendable, worship is wonderful and none of these things are to be taken for granted. But we need to start living like Jesus in his incarnation, his sacrificial death and his resurrected new life.

 

Michael Shaw

Michael Shaw is the pastor of Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth.