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There’s that in the story in 2 Kings 7 that won’t allow us to have peace so I suppose we avoid it or at least are happy that our preachers avoid it. The gouging section of it is when the lepers realize that in keeping the treasure to themselves they are “not doing right.”
There’s a cutting implication too in Jesus’ words at the Supper; “This is my blood which is shed for the forgiveness of sins of a vast host.” He shed his blood not only for our little handfuls or our combined numbers—but for a numberless “many”. Those of us who are saved rejoice in it, as we should—the multiplied millions without food, while an inexpressible tragedy, mustn’t keep us from enjoying the food we have with heartfelt gratitude and the vast number of the lost must not make us thankless when we are so richly blessed. Still...to have while others starve surely must now and then make the sensitive rise from the table before they’re really done. To eat the bread and drink the wine, to feed on Jesus with rarely a thought of or with never an attempt to bless the unforgiven in His name—is there not something of 2 Kings 7 there? The rich treasure, the more than enough nourishment for a starving people and they/we say not a word? Someone asked the elderly preacher who farmed all week and drove his little wagon over half the state at the weekends to preach to little communities of believers and non-believers—they asked him, who was surely too old now for such strenuous endeavours, why he pushed himself so hard. He said, “I can't bear to eat my bread alone.”
When the world is racked and bleeding all around us—at home and abroad—a man, woman, boy or girl with heart will even wonder whether he/she has any right to peace of mind at all. Can we take peace even from the hands of Christ, and be loyal to a world in which God has made us one family (Acts 17:26-28) if our thoughts of God are forever linked only to ourselves?
We tend to look down on those who withdrew from life in the world and remained safe within stone walls the way we would look down on allies, in the face of monstrous wrong, making a private peace with the destroyer, ensuring their own safety while others go down in smoke and flame, crying for help. But going behind bolted gates and locked doors isn’t the only way to desert a world in dire need; we can construct our mental and religious walls; we can keep ourselves to ourselves in religious enclaves that gather only to worship and pursue personal spiritual development the way body-builders pursue and admire their well-shaped and muscular frames.
But should we feel guilty because we aren’t able to transform this planet? No, we shouldn’t, because it’s beyond our power and we aren’t called to be divine. I’m sure, however, that there should be some measure of guilt—each at his/her own level—that we show no tangible sign that we feel a debt to the world and especially since we, the body of Christ, profess to bear witness to his presence in his Holy Spirit which indwells that body. The Jesus we meet in the NT brought the reign of God and healed and blessed and carried and gave himself for those out on the outer fringe. If we’re the body of that Jesus there must surely be a sense for the need of outreach; verbal or financial or social or however.
This ceaseless emotional and psychological therapy that aims to make us Christians happier and happier, more and more assured, more and more certain that God simply can’t wait to give us more and more of what we want—this is bad medicine treating a serious disease of narcissism. These endless lessons on how right “we” are and how wrong “they” are, the tireless fine-tuning of our theology that masks the truth that a little genuine theology goes a long way if it’s heeded must surely give place to another stress. If we need balance maybe balance will come when we tilt in favour of those we’ve completely ignored or merely nodded to for so long.
Are we not, then, to stabilize the home-front in order to war a good warfare? Indeed we must, but what will we do that with and when might it be time to engage the enemy in the proclamation of gospel and the healing of those on the margins that we can do something for (Luke 4:16-21)? Will we prepare for war with skits and moralizing, with endless soothing speeches about how God understands our moral weaknesses and our felt needs? Will we make war by always “getting ready” to do it; by growing a bigger church, for example; by beefing up attendance numbers, improving our worship experience, ceaselessly assuring our members of their salvation?
So what can we do? What do we want to do? What will our leaders lead us to do? What will our teachers open our eyes to do? What do those on the margins of life long for us to do? What has the Jesus of the NT called us to do?