Fourth Quarter, 2003
Can development work without human rights?
Good news for the poor
Jesus calls us to participate with Him in creating a society in which the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the homeless are cared for and the elderly are treated with dignity. His salvation includes changing this world into what it should be. - Tony Campolo
JESUS MADE HIS MISSION statement when He delivered His inaugural sermon in His hometown of Nazareth. He claimed that He had come to bring good news to the poor and deliverance to the captives (Luke 4:18). With that sermon Jesus called for a new social order. He taught his disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to be created here on earth.
As followers of Christ we must never evade that part of Jesus' message that calls us to participate with Him as He endeavours to create this new social order. Jesus wants to create a society in which the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the homeless are cared for and the elderly are treated with dignity. His salvation is not only a deliverance from sin with promises of a better life in some heavenly kingdom, as some have mistakenly thought; it is also a salvation that includes changing this world into what it should be.
Those of us who share Christ's commitment know that the weapons we are to use for this task are not those that this world's false messiahs have used. Their violent revolutions have not created the just socioeconomic societies that they promised, but have usually created more suffering for the people they claimed to be helping. The 'Jesus Revolution', on the other hand, does not start with changes at the top of the political order, but rather comes in small initiatives on the micro level. Some have called it 'the Mustard Seed Conspiracy', because Jesus once told us that, like the mustard seed, this revolution will grow into something great (Matthew 13:31).
Christian NGOs are contributing to this 'conspiracy' by helping the poor in urban slums and impoverished villages of the Third World to establish small businesses and cottage industries. In a partnership with Eastern University, one such NGO is training a new breed of Christian development worker to go to the poor and empower them for these entrepreneurial enterprises which, to date, have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Helping the poor in this way preserves their dignity. This is what God wills.
Jesus offers a (w)holistic salvation that is both personal and social - He wants to create whole, transformed people to live in a transformed world. Let us pray that His will is done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Dr Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at the Campolo School for Social Change, Eastern University, Pennsylvania, in the USA, and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE). An ordained minister, he is an author and media commentator on religious, social and political matters. See www.tonycampolo.org
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