Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When Helping Hurts

I wasn't going to order this book. The title looked boring and it also looked like an entire book about why I shouldn't have to give or serve those less fortunate than me. Thankfully I resisted my initial reaction to the title based solely on the person recommending it to me: Todd Pruitt, my former preacher. He has a great library and almost every book he's ever recommended I have love and learned tons. So I ordered it. It has since sat on my shelf. I picked it up this morning and started reading it and to my great surprise I am completely riveted. The author's premise isn't to enable lazy Christians to remain lazy; but to prod them out of their seats, encourage them to consider the poor, and urge them to set about helping them in constructive ways that really make a difference.

I have already been convicted and challenged just in the introduction and first chapter. The author has already exposed error in my thinking and beliefs about the gospel and Jesus mission here on earth.

For all of my friends who freak when they hear about the cause of the poor mixed with the gospel and think , "Oh I know, it's some of those emergent church folks in sheep's clothing pushing social activism and watering down truth," You are wrong here. I've read their literature and this is absolutely NOT it. The author, Brian Fikkart, was raised in a rural Wisconsin "that consisted of twelve-hundred no-nonsense, fourth generation Dutch immigrants." He has been a member of a theologically conservative Presbyterian churches his entire life. He is not a wishy, washy theologically weak, socially conscience liberal. So with this in mind, consider the following statements and if they peak your interest, order the book. I personally can't wait to finish it. I can't wait to see how my theology can be tweaked to be more accurate and my life better reflect my Saviour Jesus Christ because I fall short; way short.

Brian Fikkart begins by telling a story he read another book. The author described his father, a model Christian named Reverend Marsh who lived in Laurel, Mississippi during the civil rights movement. During this time The Ku Klux Klan was killing African Americans, burning their churches and was responsible for numerous physical assaults. He says this;

"…the daily installments of Mississippi burning, the crushing poverty of the towns African American inhabitants, the rituals of white supremacy, the smell of terror pervading the streets like a Masonite's stench, did not figure into his sermons or in our dinner table conversations or in the talk of the church. These were, to a good Baptist preacher like him, finally matters of politics, having little or nothing to do with the spiritual geography of a pilgrim's journey to paradise. Unwanted annoyances? Yes. Sad evidences of our humans failings? Certainly. But all of these would be rectified in some eschatological future – "when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be."

Fikkart reflects on this story and writes:

"Reverend Marsh had reduced Christianity to a personal piety that was devoid of social concern emanating from a kingdom perspective. He believed Christianity consisted in keeping one's soul pure by avoiding alcohol, drugs, and sexual impurity, and by helping others to keep their souls pure too. There was little "now" of the kingdom for Reverend Marsh, apart from saving souls, For Reverend Marsh, James 1:27 said, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.": Somehow he overlooked the phrase that pure and faultless religion includes "looking after orphans and widows in their distress,"

Fikkart then reflects on Jesus' ministry. He writes;

"Jesus earthly Ministry began one Sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus stood up and was handed a scroll from the prophet Isaiah. "Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'the Spirit of the Lord I on me, because he ahs anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." …the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and began saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in you hearing." (Luke 4:17-21)

Interesting stuff…huh? It's even better than this but I can't quote the whole thing! I would encourage you to pick up a copy! I believe it will be worth your time. Click Here to order.

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