Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A preferential option for the poor?

Is the gospel good news for the poor or for everyone? Whenever I suggest that the gospel is good news for the poor, there are people that ask 'what about me?' It's not that the 'non-poor' are excluded but perhaps that to prompt the question is to miss the point. Here's how my first theological professor, Athol Gill, put it:
The distinctive feature of the ministry of Jesus was that while it was an open invitation to everyone and all were welcome, it was directed primarily towards those whom the orthodox, the establishment, regarded as beyond the fringes of respectability. The ministry of Jesus was directed especially to those who were considered to be beyond the realm of salvation according to the theology of the day: lepers who had to live outside the camp, regarded as unclean and denied fellowship with others; Gentiles who had no share in the privileges of Israel; women and children who had no status within the community; notorious sinners, despised tax collectors, drunkards and prostitutes. The ministry of Jesus was open to all, but it was directed primarily towards the oppressed and the outcast, for it was a ministry of grace and love.


Anonymous said...

The Romans were not financially disadvantaged yet spiritually so. The outcasts and oppressed are often quite well off financially. Drunkards and prostitutes are not without money. The needy in our midst are those who need the Lord whatever their financial position, and frankly, this is none of our business. The Lord does not discriminate and nor should we. Stop waving personal poverty like a banner - this only draws attention to the plight of those who would prefer a hand up and out of their circumstances. Then what? Once they find the Lord and their lives improve, are they less important? Love people because the Lord loves people, not because they are rich or poor or black or white or old or young. Just love them all. And keep loving them all.

Anonymous said...

Means tested salvation.

Liam said...

One thing that gets me in the current discussion of the 'whosoever' in Salvationist language is we have disassociated it from its historical context.

The last time On Fire ran this discussion the whole idea of the 'whosoever will may be saved' was used as justification for ministry to the materially well off.

The problem being, when the phrase 'whosoever will may be saved' began in Salvationist language was when we were interacting with the marginalised in society who were unable to engage with the Christianity of the middle and upper classes. The phrase was to show that the marginalised have a place in Christianity and for the Salvation Army that was were we were to be at work.

If God's ministry is one of restitution then of course the marginalised are going to gain from his ministry. The flip side is of course those who have more will lose out.

JDK said...

Thanks for your comments - the level of interest caught me by surprise.

Anon - obviously you and I are not on the same page here but if you think I'm going to stop you should expect to be disappointed.

David - I'm still laughing at your comment (mostly because I can't find a way to disagree with it!)

Liam - See Mark 2:15-17, I think this is a key hermeneutic text on this matter.

Regards, JDK