The Church’s Responsibility to the World
Whether we live in urban environments like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, small towns like Latrobe, Pa., or in rural villages, most people’s natural tendency is to use whatever power and influence we have for self-serving purposes. We often abuse our God-given privileges by prominently doing good to those who can reciprocate our generosity. Privilege comes wearing many different hats: wealth, prestige, caste, gender, education, race, etc. I think as Christians we have the greatest privilege of all, a relationship with Christ. However, as Christians, we often stay too comfortable, too self-centered, too stymied by fear that we cover up our own light. This light was divinely designed to shine brightly. This light was never meant to be just ours and those like us. This light was always meant to humbly undergird our sisters and brothers everywhere toward shalom and freedom.
I will never forget worshiping with a homeless church under a bridge in the urban-center of Surabaya, Indonesia. Even with the rumbling of semi-trucks overhead, tremendous insect infestation, and perpetual sickness from extreme proximity to a high bacteria yielding garbage dump, these Christians exuded more joy in the privilege of knowing Christ than I had ever seen. This church under the bridge’s fervor for Christ so transcended their circumstances that they took up a collection of what little they had to give to their non-Christian peers and to serve refugee orphans. They accounted their privilege as followers of Jesus over all other circumstances and joyously operated out of that framework toward the betterment of others.
It is both our duty and privilege to spread God’s love throughout the earth in transformative ways. This call will often take us into unpopular places and undesirable circumstances aligning ourselves with those whose cries go unnoticed and whose conditions seem permanent. However, our “Christ privilege” calls us to minister to all people and places, and we end up being transformed in the process. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Let us take the greatest privilege this world has ever known, and be light to all.
Kimberly Merrell, an MDiv program alumna of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is the director of the Metro-Urban Institute at PTS.