I looked around the room and, quoting from Luke 4, shared how Jesus, filled with the Spirit came out of the desert to announce the beginning of his ministry. His mission statement:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news....right? The question is, to who? Who did Jesus say he had come to bring good news to?"
I was teaching last week at a cell group of affluent young Christians in their 20's and 30's.
They looked at each other surprised and confused. One reached for his Bible to look it up. Another searched his phone.
"Um...the broken hearted?" ventured one brave soul.
I realized that this group of young Christians could be multiplied millions of times over around the world. Disconnected from poverty and injustice, we no longer even notice the core teachings of Jesus about his heart for the poor. Isolated from people on the margins of society, many of our churches have become an echo chamber of the privileged.
The only thing we glean from most of Jesus' teaching about the poor, is a kind of therapeutic "binding up the broken-hearted" that we can cling to when we feel down. We co-opt his promises for the poor, for ourselves.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor," I said, disheartened.
Shane Claiborne once lamented that the problem with the church today is not that they don't care about the poor, but that they don't KNOW the poor.
I think he is onto something. When we live our lives in isolation from the majority of the world's poor, we lose perspective. The gospel (good news) that Jesus came to bring, is no longer for the poor, but solely for us and those like us. To make us feel good, to bless our businesses and careers and families and upwardly mobile lifestyles.
Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters die of preventable diseases. They languish in slums and on the streets. They struggle in situations of exploitation and injustice.
Where is the good news for them? Will it be found in our churches?