Monday, September 21, 2015

Contextual Witness to the Poor

Jesus told Peter to cast his nets out for a catch of fish despite experience and evidence told him it would be a waste of time. After the miracle that followed, Peter put his trust in Jesus.
Jesus fed the five thousand with seven loaves and two fish, but later told them that they are following him because he gave them food. He told them also that even Moses and the Jews who crossed the Red Sea were fed directly with manna from heaven, but they died. However, Jesus said he himself was the true bread from heaven eating which the believer lives eternally and shall not die.

To the rich young ruler who had many possessions, he asked to follow him after selling all his possessions.

Each conversion (or lack thereof) happens after a contextual presentation of the Savior.

If we believe that presenting the Savior to an unbeliever is the mission of God, then we must present it in her context. C gospel that is not contextual is just a set of facts. To believe these facts is to open the way to the Savior. To believe, these facts must enter into the context of the unbeliever. The Holy Spirit does this. Why should we, his followers, not do this as well? Is our job simply to state the apostles’ creed and back away?

If we are to contextualize the gospel, we must understand that such activity does not only take place in the form of challenging or engaging social customs, beliefs, religious ideas, philosophies, work and other aspects of life- but if the unbeliever’s most pressing context is social injustice, can a gospel that does not enter that context be real to the hearer?

If a man is unemployed, why shouldn’t the believing world strive to help him with a job? Isn’t that contextualization? Too often, we are merely comfortable with adapting the gospel message to the outward signs of cultural expression- music, storytelling, familiar images in a cultural setting, images, metaphors and so on. Jesus himself did this a lot through his parables. Too often, we do not think that standing with the poor or marginalized in their fight against social injustice is not actually contextualization, rather it just what a child of God should do in order to exhibit the character of God that she has been clothed with. I think this impoverishes the missional intensity of God’s commandment to make disciples of all nations. To make disciples, we cannot afford to differentiate between contexts based on our comfort. To fight injustice in our day and age is very costly and involves fighting our own prejudices.

And how the Bible talks about these things- albeit in different ways! How could we miss the forest for the trees?

“Hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” “You cannot serve God and money.” “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” ““Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” 

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