Summary: In being “Christ like” in the present day, we too can share in the whole of God’s mission; by demonstrating God’s love in the world we live in, by allowing our actions to match our words, we can demonstrate a very effective way of revealing God and makin
Just over ninety eight years ago, the founder of The Salvation Army stood on the platform of the Royal Albert Hall and gave what would be his last ever speech to the masses of Salvationists gathered in front of him. A small portion of that speech has found its way into the hearts and minds of Salvationists around the world.
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight- I’ll fight to the very end.”
Only the names have changed (montage of different social problems on PPT)
Over ninety eight years later, the problems remain, only the names have changed. Women are still weeping and more and more men are shedding tears of despair over the situations they find themselves in. Children are still going hungry, according to figures published in a report on the Guardian website, 30% of children in the United Kingdom are living below the breadline. (Gentleman. 2009) Men and women are still going in and out of prison. There are still drunkards, only now we call them “alcoholics”. Our prisons are full to bursting point, many of those serving time are there because of drink related crime. Alcoholism and drug abuse are on the increase, young and not so young women and men are selling themselves on the streets to make ends meet and feed their dependencies on whatever they find themselves addicted to. Homelessness is on the increase, during our first year of training in 2008, we had to attend a week long social centre placement at Hopetown, a women’s hostel in Whitechapel, situated less than 300 yards from the site of William Booth’s first tent meeting. During that placement, Lorraine and I attended the annual remembrance service for the homeless who had died on the streets of London during that year. One hundred and seventy names were read out of people who had died in homelessness and they were just the ones who were known on the system, last year the list numbered over 200. It’s a sad fact that these issues are not restricted to London, as I am becoming all too aware of on an almost daily basis. We are living in a society that is spiritually bankrupt; many people are living in despair, prisoners of the situations they find themselves in, trapped in low paid jobs and forced to live on credit, paying over inflated interest, because of the collapse of the industries that once thrived in the United Kingdom and that’s if they’re fortunate enough to find work. Human slavery, we now call it trafficking, is still a growing trade, despite being abolished 177 years ago; gangs roam the streets, news of street violence and child abuse dominate the media.
What can we do? After all God clearly admits in Deuteronomy 15: 11 “There will always be poor people in the [world]...” If God is saying that what hope have we of helping them?
Well actually he goes on to say in the same verse “...therefore I command you to be open handed towards your brother [and sister] and towards the poor and needy.” (NIV, brackets mine)
God is making it clear to us that he doesn’t want us to stand around watching his people die!
We are called to help others
When my son, Matthew, was a small boy, he had a keen awareness of right and wrong. Occasionally though as many small boys do, he would push his luck and choose to do something that he knew was wrong. Sometimes it would only be a small thing like touching his mum’s favourite ornament, sometimes it would be on a larger scale like touching one of the LPs in my Elvis collection. On each occasion though, he would keep his eyes closed whilst committing his crimes, his logic was that, if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him.
We could choose to close our eyes to the needs of others and pretend to ourselves that they’re not there and that Jesus cannot see us doing it; after all God gave us freedom of choice, did he not? Actually the freedom of choice God gave us was the freedom to choose whether or not to accept Jesus as Lord, the freedom whether or not to accept the free gift of salvation, through the atonement Christ made on the cross for us. If we choose to accept Jesus into our lives, then we should also accept the responsibility that goes with that acceptance. Jesus makes it very clear that if we close our eyes to the needs of others, we are also closing our eyes to him, in verse 45 of this morning’s scripture reading, he says “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.” (NIV)