The gospel message bears witness to the glorious intervention of a transcendent, yet profoundly loving and compassionate, God in the events of human history in order to introduce hope and healing to the world. Human beings had been separated from their loving God as a result of their own disobedience; separated from the presence of the only true source of peace and joy, thus leaving humankind grasping for alternative sources of wholeness in the material objects that merely bear the fingerprints of their creator. Nevertheless, the path towards redemption did not rest upon the goodness of fallen beings, but rather upon the infinite graciousness of the Creator, manifested in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Still, centuries after the events culminating in the redemption of humankind, the vestiges of sin, separation, and suffering remain. The struggles that face humankind, upon close examination and reflection, make followers of Jesus cry out, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” In the face of war, famine, corruption, greed, and poverty, followers often feel powerless to bring about significant change. Yet, even while they feel powerless, they remember their Lord’s teachings about the seeds, the soil, and the slow-growing mustard tree. They reflect on the growing kingdom of God that even the gates of Hades will not be able to withstand. And followers are encouraged by the words of their master, assuring them of his perpetual presence even in the darkest of times.
And it is exactly in those dark times that we Christians are called to be light and salt, infusing the lost world with the message of salvation that we have heard and experienced. It is exactly in the brokenness of this world that we, like our Lord, are called to take the form of servants and embody the love that seeks wholeness and healing for those that suffer; and even suffer ourselves so that others can share in the riches of God’s grace.
But the follower of Jesus is often left wrestling with questions that can at times feel overwhelming: What does the embodied Christ-life look like in the face of human suffering? How can the community of Christ faithfully bear witness to the good news of Jesus in the various realms of human suffering? What are the many ways that humans suffer, and how can we help in each of these areas? What is the wholeness that God desires for all people, and how can we offer that wholeness in all of its manifold complexity? These are only a few of the questions with which the disciple might struggle; the intricacy of the question of human suffering is evident.
This issue of Missio Dei seeks to serve as a springboard for thought, reflection, and discussion concerning one specific issue of human suffering, namely poverty. The realities of human suffering due to a lack of resources necessary for abundant human life are increasingly known and published in the modern world. Technology and globalization have shed light on the suffering of our fellow human beings throughout the world. The call to obedience through loving in word and deed becomes louder with every new fact, figure, and face that reveals the crushing realities of world poverty. But what does such obedience look like?
As we seek to live in obedience to bring the good news of Jesus to every nation, tribe, and people, let us remember that, in a very real way, the act of sharing with others in need allows us to experience the life that is truly life (1 Tim 6:18–19; Luke 12:33). Let us remember that it is the fool who hoards only for himself (Luke 12:13–21). Let us remember that our Lord’s quotation of the Old Testament in reference to the poor (Matt 26:11) came from a passage that encouraged open generosity towards the needy (Deut 15:7–11). And may we always remember that the manner in which we act towards the “least of these” in the world directly reflects the care and concern that we have for our beloved Savior (Matt 25:34–40). May we, like so many godly Christian witnesses ahead of us, see the face of Jesus in every person that we meet.