Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Christ

Greymouth Uniting Church

Mission is struggling for a just world

Readings: Luke 4:16-21, Acts 2:42-47.

O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, and enlighten us so that we may do your will. Amen.

Mission is struggling for a just world. Why should we struggle for a just world?

Jesus declared "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” How do we perceive this abundant life? Where do we find a model of such life? God created everything in abundance, enough for everyone; but in reality there is no abundant life, instead a life with scarcity. The reality in the world today is a growing disparity between the rich and the poor. This is one of the many injustices. Therefore I believe one goal of mission is to struggle for a just world. The policy makers of the current economic system say a trickle down economic system will benefit all people. But the reality is the opposite. Pope Francis called the governments to redistribute wealth and benefits to the poor in a new spirit of generosity. It is to help curb the "economy of exclusion" that is taking hold today. He said a more equal form of economic progress can be had through "the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society."

God created the resources of the earth in abundance for all the people to share. In reality, instead of sharing, there is accumulation. In today’s world if I am to name one mega-sin, that is accumulation of wealth at the cost of life and livelihood of the poor.

The consequence is there is a category called underclass that doesn’t have access to basic needs. Grain and bread is part of God’s creation for sharing, but it is being guarded. Walter Brueggamann calls it the tap root of evil. He says the modern policy is bread must be guarded to create an artificial scarcity so that the price can be increased to multiply the wealth of the merchant. It is in this context you and I are trying to live out a Christian life. You and I are trying to be involved in Christ’s mission. Christ’s mission is to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

Christ identified this as his mission because the abundance God created is distorted by human greed. Human greed results in injustice to the poor, the powerless and the vulnerable people. We as Christians get to serve Christ in his mission. Christians’ mission cannot exclude the struggle for a just world where God’s abundance is shared by all. Christians should struggle for a just world because there is so much of injustice in the world. Injustice in any form is against God’s will.

We can clearly see a disparity between Jesus’ offer of abundant life and an economy of exclusion. Thus the Pope is calling for a redistribution of economic benefits. That is what the early Christians practised. The passage from Acts tells us about a model of abundant life. Life amongst the people of the early church was like being a family. They devoted their time to the apostles teaching, prayers, breaking bread and sharing of possessions. It was an integrated practice of faith. We do the first three. Throughout history, Christians called to be a new community failed in sharing of possessions. Today we are confronted with two parallels of Christian faith. One is a religion of devoutness. That involves worship, praying, attending church and so on. The other is acts of compassion. That involves sharing of our resources and crying for economic justice. How can we strike a balance between the two?

Devotion + Compassion + Justice + Worship

If we are to accept our servanthood in God's reign then struggle for a just world is inevitable. The first step in that direction would be to know the injustice in the world. Unless we name them we will not have a legitimate struggle for justice. How do we do this? John Wesley began his ministry with struggling for justice. His ministry was among the urban poor rather than the affluent. His mother church was ministering only to the affluent of the society.

It was a situation of the church standing by the oppressor of the day rather than caring for the oppressed. So it is today. Only a few people in churches speak up against the exploitation of cheap labour. Only a few people cry for a living wage in New Zealand while the company directors work towards their perks by increasing the profit margin. Poverty increases while a few become wealthier. The economic system is friendlier to the rich and exploits the poor.

The consequence is people die of starvation. My contention is people die of hunger not because there is no food, but there is no justice. Why do I say so? Let me give you a few facts: Prof. Reeve Velunta of Union Theological Seminary, Cavite, Philippines was quoted in the Asia plenary of the assembly in Busan by Connie Mella. She said,

"Millions of tons of fruits and vegetables are being demolished in the first world’s market just to keep the prices high while thousands of children in Asia and Africa die every day because of hunger. USA has the resources to feed 40 billion people. That figure is six times the current population of the world.” From these facts we could say that people starve to death not because of lack of food but because of lack of justice."

Our longing for wholeness and our struggle for a just world will continue. Our hope is that one day we will achieve that wholeness. By then millions of people would perish in this world because of bread being guarded.

Our struggle for a just world is not going to change the world fully. But we can do our part. We can still work to bring about a change. I found this poem in Our Daily Bread that tells us our role:

To ease the heartache in our world
That causes us to cry,
Let's do what we can do to help
That needy one close by. – ODB.

Do what you can where you are with what you have.

If you have some work to do,
Start this very hour;
You supply the willingness,
God supplies the power. — Anon.