That there is a need for such enterprise as food bank, clothing bank and the like in Hunstanton cannot be questioned. The demand is clearly visible. And, if left to the government, the people who are currently slipping through the nets of the poverty trap, would remain there…trapped. But this is not just about social action or (to re-coin an out of fashion term) alms. This is not about the benefits of altruism or feeling good about helping others. All those things are admirable but not the reason why we do this.
We do this as a response. A response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel or ‘good news’ is an enigma to those who don’t understand its purpose, but to those of us who do, the hearing of it for the first time; the understanding of its very nature, is our salvation…or rather the beginning of our salvation. When we first grasp the fundamental aspects of this good news we are challenged with the notion that we have ‘fallen short’ (the word ‘sin’ literally means to fall short – like an arrow shot from a bow that fails to make it as far as the target, let alone hit it), we have a response to make. We either accept the challenge or we reject it. If we reject it, the good news is not good news to us…but foolishness. If, however, we accept the challenge that we have indeed fallen short of the mark, we then find ourselves responding to it.
Our first response should always be one of sorrow which leads to repentance. Repentance, quite literally, means to turn from the way you have been walking and to walk in a different direction. Once we start walking in that different direction we find we are walking towards the source of the good news – Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God. Our repentance of our old way of doing things always involves saying sorry to God for falling short of what we should have been. Previously, the way we led our lives meant that because of our sin we were separated from God but, because Jesus took our punishment for us and made it possible for us to be reunited with God (the good news), we say sorry and acknowledge that Jesus paid the price for us. Not only that, but with the revelation or understanding of just what He has done for us and achieved by this selfless act, we find ourselves responding accordingly. The Apostle Paul sums this process up brilliantly in the book of Acts (which describes the actions of those who follow Jesus after their acceptance of the good news):
“…but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all of the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” [ACTS 26:20 NKJV]
So, if our only response to the good news is to say sorry to God and turn toward Him, we are still falling short of the mark because we should also be doing works that are befitting or in line with our repentance. You see, sadly, the church as a body of people has been guilty of only fulfilling the first two of Paul’s objectives. It is easy for us to receive the good news, say sorry to God and turn to Him in a church building on a Sunday and listen to calls to fulfil all three objectives, get all fired up and determined to do something extra and then on a Monday get drawn back into our everyday lives and forget about the call of God on our lives until the following Sunday and another message about the objectives. I should know, I did it.
And the Apostle Paul isn’t the only one who tells us about such objectives. James, the brother of Jesus in his open letter to the 12 tribes of Israel also implored them to put their faith into action when he wrote:
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” [JAMES 2: 14-17 NKJV]
So, we can have faith in God but that faith can be declared dead if we do not back it up with actions! In fact throughout the entire Bible we see these simple principles at work. Faith that leads to action. In the book of Acts again, when Jesus had ascended into Heaven and His disciples were waiting for the Holy Spirit to be imparted to them that they might have the same authority as Jesus displayed, it says that they (the disciples – around 120 people) were ‘with one accord’. Now this doesn’t just mean that they all agreed with each other. The Greek word (the New Testament was written in Greek) for ‘with one accord’ is homothumadon which means a harmony that leads to action. In other words, their unity of faith led to them doing works.
As a result of understanding such clear guidance, we have decided to undertake the feeding and clothing of people. We have decided to help anyone who wants to help themselves. We have decided to ‘do unto others as we would have done to ourselves’. We are responding to the good news in the way the good news shows us to. For too long the body known as the church has been seen as hypocritical in as much has it has much to say but little actions to back its words up. But, if we fully understand the good news and what Jesus achieved for each of us as individuals then there can only be one response: Repent, turn to God and make your actions in line with repentance.
Have a blessed day today.