I listened to the first sermon of a good friend of mine recently. His sermon was about ‘love’. While preparing for it, he asked me for my thoughts on the topic although I didn’t really say much because he would already know what I have to say. We talk pretty regularly about Christian issues, theology and all. So he would know I would have this to say:
Christians need to help out more in eradicating suffering and poverty in this world. That is after all what God would want us to do. God’s heart is for the poor and oppressed and suffering. Love is about considering others first. It’s about helping others. It’s about putting others first. It’s about meeting their needs. It’s not about ourselves, but about others. A sermon on love? When it comes to talking about Christians loving others, mention the poverty in the world. Challenge the audience to do something about it. That’s love. And through this act of love for the poor and suffering, the world will know that we’re Christians because we love others with the love we have first received from God in Christ.
When it came to his sermon, he did mention the poverty and suffering of many people BUT (and here’s the amusing but ultimately sad part) in the context of saying that despite all this, God is in still in control and He still loves us. Well, to say the least, that was very typical… I guess I should have expected how it’ll turn out. I definitely could not expect a strong sermon from him (in his first sermon) calling members of his congregation to sacrifice, deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus in loving and being compassionate for the poor and oppressed by giving more to the poor and helping them in any way. Yet boy do I feel so passionately that that’s what God wants us to do!
But I guess I can’t expect such radical message because that’s not the typical kind of Evangelical sermon you’ll hear. Most Evangelical sermons seem to care more about getting Christians to trust in God (focusing on the vertical relationship between man and God) rather than the horizontal element of our faith and the call for us to love one another. It’s more of:
Hey folks, I’m not asking you to sacrifice more to help in eradicating the suffering in this world. Oh no, that’s not my point in mentioning the suffering of the world and the poor who are dying. I’m not here to press the demands of Jesus upon you, just to let you know what a beautiful and wonderful and great God we still have inspite of all we see in this world. My point is a godlier truth: to remind you what a great God we have and though things may seem bad in this world, do not worry much because God is in control. He has His reasons for why the world is like this. So rest assured, we have a good and powerful God and everything is in control. You can continue to trust in Him ok? Everything is in His hands. Believing this takes faith and that is the eseence of all wisdom: to know God is in control of all things.
So we choose to soothe the souls of men, comfort them in letting them know we have a great God in control, rather than pressing upon them the demands of the love we should express to the world. Hey, it’s easier to preach soothing messages! Let’s not worry about the suffering in this world. I’m not here to call you out of your apathy and indifference towards the poor in the world. I’m here to make you feel good about yourself. And good about God.
To me, that’s just hiding apathy and indifference towards the suffering in the world behind illusions of godliness.
I’m not denying that God is in control. He sure is. But I think evangelicalism has done way too little to help the poor and they have too many messages like the above. I just wonder if God would have such a message in mind as often as is heard in the Evangelical church when tens of thousands of his wonderful creatures made in His image die daily because of the indifference shown by First World Christians towards them…
PS: I hesitated putting the above up on my website but I eventually did because I feel passionately sad about the lack of social concern in the Church. I’m sick of the lack of radical calls in the Church to help the millions suffering in the world. I need such sermons for myself too. I need to be challenged to do what I have to do, to care more for the poor. Yet such calls are non-existent in conservative Evangelicalism. But I’m not surprised because I don’t think a pastor would last long in a Church if he/she were to preach such radical messages. If I were to be a pastor, I’d probably not want to be so radical because most Christians would not be able to accept that. So I don’t blame my friend. I don’t claim to be any better. He’s a good friend of mine and we still talk regularly about Christian issues and besides this issue – as important to me as it may be – my views on many Christian issues are probably closer to his than to most other Christians I know. So I write the above hopefully in the right spirit of constructive criticism for I know I am no better.