This past Friday while waiting in line at the ATT store for the new iPhone I struck up a conversation with one of the other guys that was in line as well.
I had noticed he was reading a book so I asked him what it was and it turns out it was The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne(links to Amazon and Wikipedia). If you haven't read this book you should as it is a nice, short, good read. Anyway, we talked about the book for awhile then we started talking about the way we see the community of God working and the way it should be working.
One of the big issues I brought up was the fact that we do so much for people in the Church but we neglect our neighbor right next door. It seems like we see needs inside the Church and around the world but our neighbor next door is struggling to put dinner on the table. I think to fully understand the totality of the situation we need to look at the book of Acts. In the book of Acts the Church did something revolutionary. I am not saying we should do it today because in our society something like this would not work.
In acts chapter 4 Luke writes, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."
There are a couple things we have to understand about this passage. First, the Church did not keep all that money to themselves, they used it to meet needs in the community, such as taking care of the needy, widows, and funding missionary journeys. I feel the need to further emphasize the face that I am not advocating selling all your stuff and giving it to the Church. That sort of thing does not fly in today's society, but what I am saying is this. If you are driving a Lexus and your neighbor has no food to eat we have a problem.
America has moved away from this place of community where people simply take care of each other in times of need, and moved into this area where we are all about getting ours, making a way for us, driving nice cars, and owning big houses.
I think the heart of the gospel is people helping people. Its not just about "getting saved", yes that is part of it, but that isn't all of it. I would argue that it is fairly low on the totem pole. It is what we do after we recognized our need for Christ. I am not saying that we are saved by what we do, that would be contrary to scripture, but I am saying if we are saved it will change what we do...
Now that I have taken 10 minutes of your time I will let you go with this:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27.