Of course, “challenge” is one purpose of the study. At the end of every chapter you’ll find this question: “Does the reading convict, challenge or comfort you?” Some challenge is built into the study. For example, the chapter on prayer was a goad to better discipline myself in prayer. The chapter on sin prompted me to look at some personal issues again. And I felt the prodding of the Spirit to set aside reflection time in the middle of my Sunday message about chapter 14. I then prodded the congregation to think about – and share with others – how the Spirit spoke to them, right there in worship. A challenge for them as well as for me.
But all of these focus on the personal realm of faith. This week’s chapter moves us, at least potentially, into a more public realm. When we consider issues of justice, we begin with what is personal: my experience with someone who is poor, or with those who are different from me. But as we “stand for justice” with people who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison, we inevitably need to consider the social, economic and political realities that generate or perpetuate such conditions. Christians sometimes have a difficult time with this.
On a personal level, many Christians are willing to help this individual or that family in need; or contribute to food banks and soup kitchens. But here’s the challenge: what are we called to do about the institutionalization of poverty in our country? For example, I’ve recently heard of one large corporation that hires people at poverty level wages, and if they complain about low pay tells them to apply for food stamps. And instead of providing health benefits, they tell their employees to apply for SCHIP and other state and federal aid. I don’t think this is fair either for the employee or for the taxpayer who has to foot the bill for the corporation. Is this just? WWJD?
You and I as individual Christians don’t begin to have the resources to help all the people who are in need, especially when multi-million/billion dollar corporations are evading their social responsibility to provide a living wage and benefits. I quickly find myself in agreement with the conclusions in the chapter reading, and I wonder why Ogden didn’t address the socio-political aspect more directly.
The personal issue for me on this topic: how much and how far to press justice issues in my preaching at Zion?