The Least and the Last
What the Gospel really means for those on the edge
“Does God want my child to live?” She was dressed in a cobalt blue sari, typical of her North African culture. Her child was listless, clinging to life. The raids on her village had left her family with little food. Children were severely malnourished. Water was scarce.
She came to the clinic with several other mothers from her village. She had resolved that if her child died, it was Allah’s will. She would try her best not to cry. But these people said her child could live. They told her about a God who loves—a God who wants her child to live. Therapeutic feeding, everyday, for two weeks, would bring her infant son back to life; he would thrive again.
She dropped her gaze as she let the words of hope sink in. Tears began to rim her eyes.
What does the Gospel mean for this lady in blue, tucked away in a desert village under constant threat of violence, disease and death? Two millennia ago, in another remote village, also under constant threat of violence, disease and death, Jesus of Nazareth gave the answer:
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10
“Your kingdom come,” according to Dallas Willard, is nothing more than God’s effective rule, his will, on earth, as it already is in heaven. When God’s will is carried out, in all dimensions, the Gospel is present.
Back to the lady in blue. For her, the Gospel means her children will live, her home won’t be burned, and her land will produce food again (Isaiah 65:20-23). For her, the Gospel means she will embrace the God of the universe who loves relentlessly, gives abundantly, and forgives endlessly. For her, the Gospel, in its fullness, does nothing short of turn her life inside out, and upside down.
An age-old tug-of-war is finally, and graciously, coming to an end. Word versus deed. Social versus spiritual. Proclamation versus demonstration. Neither side won. Both were wrong. Both were right. To our astonishment, the answer was there the whole time, buried in one of the most important prayers of all time. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If we reduce the gospel solely to personal salvation, people are saved but their world is ignored resulting in what Bryant Myers calls a “crippled Christianity with a crippled result.” If we evacuate the economic, political, and social realms, we leave them “to evil, where ideologies claim minds and hearts with their seductive and deceptive claims of hope.” The Gospel redeems not only the human spirit, but redeems all dimensions of life, “right down to its basic structures.”
So, what do we do? We follow Jesus:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. –Luke 4:18-19
Jesus pursued the least and the last, the forgotten and the forbidden. So why shouldn't we?
Written by Stephen Bauman