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10th November 2013
How do you feel when you read newspaper headlines such as:
'British jobs for British workers'
'Secret report warns of migration meltdown in Britain'
'A massive rise in immigration next year could trigger a devastating crisis in Britain's schools, housing and welfare services, according to a secret Government report leaked to [this newspaper]'
'One in four adults in Britain are binge-drinkers and the UK recently topped a poll as Europe's heaviest alcohol drinkers'
'Inactivity is "as deadly as smoking" – a lack of exercise is now causing as many deaths as smoking across the world'
How do you react to those headlines? What goes on in your heart?
In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, we read about what God requires of His people. This is a great question to start each day with! The first thing is to fear the Lord – we read elsewhere in the Bible that this is the beginning of wisdom. Christians aren't to fear anything but the Lord. These verses tell us that God owns the highest heavens and the Earth and all creation. He knows what's best for us, and these verses also tell us that God has set His heart to love you!
This passage of the Bible soon moves to the specifics of what it looks like to fear God and follow His ways. We read that God's people are to walk in His ways and to be socially inclusive. God cares about people; He cares deeply about the most vulnerable people in society. He is full of mercy and compassion for the fatherless and the widow, who represent anyone and everyone who is financially vulnerable, has no protection and no voice, is open to exploitation or overlooked in the population, and who is hit hardest in times of crisis.
God's people were told to care for the most vulnerable. He created safeguards for the Israelites so that the poor didn't get poorer: whatever situation someone got into – whether it was their own fault or caused by someone else – they would get a fresh start when the Lord's Year of Jubilee came around. In the New Testament Jesus is even more provoking, saying that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the sick, those without clothes and those in prison, is a test as to whether or not we are following Christ at all! (See Matthew 25)
Who are the socially vulnerable in our society? Perhaps the mentally ill, those who don't fit into mainstream education, the elderly, the long-term unemployed, the poorly educated, victims within broken families… God cares about the socially vulnerable, and His people are to care about them too. We might feel we have good reasons not to -- maybe you think they brought it on themselves, or they may abuse your kindness, or you think it's your money -- but what would Jesus think of those reasons?
"While Romans generally despised the poor and viewed their misery as largely self-inflicted, the early Christians won the [Roman] empire to Christ by demonstrating the gospel by the way they helped the poor." (Phil Moore, Everyday Church, London)
When we encounter those who are poor and vulnerable, are we hard-hearted and cynical? As Christians, our default setting should be compassion. That's where we should start. If we don't start there, we need to ask if we are thinking with a renewed mind, or a polluted one? Are we thinking in a 'merely human' fashion? (See 1 Corinthians 2:4) Or are we following Christ in our attitudes, thoughts and words towards the poor?
As well as being socially inclusive, God's people are to be racially inclusive. God loves the immigrant -- Israel was told to love the immigrants among them too, because they knew what it was to be immigrants themselves when they were in Egypt. Likewise, Christians are described in the Bible as foreigners here on Earth. The purpose of the Church is to be a light to the nations -- this isn't just going to the nations, but as they come to us too!
"I draw a lot of parallels with Wilberforce's battle with slavery: he saw a whole nation and even the Church changed from thinking that slavery was ok to seeing it abolished. There is a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about asylum and a lot of injustice, but it's my belief that God can turn a nation's attitude around in the space of a lifetime. That's my prayer: that we become a nation that's proud to take care of the most vulnerable once again." (Julian Prior, Action Foundation)
Again, is compassion our default setting? Are we thinking we a renewed mind, or a polluted one? Are we being 'merely human'?
To listen to the sermon and download the life application PDF, click here.
Posted by Paul Mann