Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Does Paul talk about hunger? [Part 1]

Well, not much directly perhaps. But neither does he only talk about us all being sinners falling short of the glory of God and needing justification (which is, of course, quite important). Paul also emphasizes the need for a transformed life in the Spirit.

I don't want this post to get super long, so we're going to have some fun and make this into a short series. The main principle of the series is that Paul may have been focused on the issues of his time and place, but from his discussion on those important issues, we can steal the principles that he has used and apply them to our understanding of hunger today. We will even touch on some of the specific passages where Paul does address the issue of poverty and feeding our enemies. So, without further adieu, what seems to be the big problem for Paul and the early church?

Many of our churches tend to be characterized by divisions (on homosexuality, abortion, women in ministry, pews versus chairs, etc.) rather than a united effort to serve others in a powerful Spirit-led witness to the non-Christian world. The big divisive issue in the earliest church was a result of the initial Jewish makeup of the early church butting heads with the influx of new non-Jewish (Gentile/Greek) Christians. Do Gentile Christians need to obey the law of Moses? Do they need to be circumcised? Can they eat meat sacrificed to idols? Are their children allowed to watch Teletubbies? This is the heated debate that brought about the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 and that finds a prominent place in the letters of Paul, particularly in Romans and Galatians. But what does Paul say about this division?
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Gal 5:6)

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! (Gal 6:15)
Paul is otherwise a fierce advocate for the "uncircumcision" side of the division and yet, here he says that wherever you come down in this debate, what matters is faith working through love and becoming a new creation. So, the point here is: don't get distracted with divisive conflict in our efforts to be a witness, a testimony, to God's love through our actions to others.

Do our concerns about various political litmus tests undermine our ability to be servants of God, of one another, of outsiders, of our enemies? As many people in the anti-hunger movement like to say: hunger is not a controversial issue. Can any true Christian genuinely say that hunger in this world is an acceptable situation? What prevents us from uniting on this issue? Is it truly our service to God? Or is it about this-worldly political divisions?

[Next up in the series: Paul's "new creation" is about the "fruit of the Spirit"]

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