An Order of "Salvific" Love

When I think about social justice issues like caring for the needs of the poor--those without basic necessities like food/water, or those on the underside of power (the sick/aged/oppressed/in prison), I have generally thought of these concerns as "outreach" or mission.

But what if these concerns are NOT to be born out of a concern for mission directly, but only secondarily? What if these things are actually the initial evidence of salvation or of God's presence in our lives? What if caring for the other is not an expression of outreach any more than prayer or the studying scripture are? What if it is these actions are simply natural expressions of our transformation by the love of God and show that we are members of God's kingdom?

We all know that the only snapshot Jesus gives us of Judgment Day is Mt. 25 where the qualifying issue for entering into God's eternal life is whether or not we cared for the poor, the sick, the lonely, the hungry. I don't think any of us believe that Jesus was saying any one "earns" eternal life by participating in those things (Paul actually says that if we work with the poor to the point of deep personal loss without being motivated by the love of God--we profit nothing! [1 Co. 13]). So what Is Jesus saying in Mt. 25? Perhaps he was simply saying these are the things that most evidence the claim that salvation has dawned in us?

Remember John's comment in 1 Jn 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love." Then he says (vv. 16-17), "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?"

John is arguing that the presence of salvific LOVE is evidenced by the action of caring for the have not's. James chimes in, "It would be like seeing a brother or sister without any clothes out in the cold and begging for food, and saying, “Shalom, friend, you should get inside where it’s warm and eat something,” but doing nothing about his needs—leaving him cold and alone on the street. What good would your words alone do?" (James 2:15-17)

If we love God we must care for those who have no voice; no power; living under systems of abuse. But this must not be motivated by a political impulse or as an "outreach" to win people to Jesus...but simply because the love of God is in us. The psalmist claimed that "God lifts the poor out of misery" (Ps 107:41). It is just what he does because he is love.

The psalmist also said of the godly person who has ANY strength (Ps. 72):

For he (the good ruler) shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress,
and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and poor;
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression.

May we in the Order be known, not only for prayer and personal piety, but for engagement with the invisible people who are easy to ignore and forget. "Lord, help us. Lord, have mercy on us."