At the heart of the gospel is a passion and concern for the weak, the powerless, the poor. In a very real sense, the weak are the heart of gospel, the center of the world.
“The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn….”
Our mission is to spread the gospel of freedom to those who most need comfort and hope. This liberation mission is clear to me as the mission of the Church. Were we to answer this call, and live to lift the burden and oppression of the weak, the year of Lord’s favor would start from there.
As we remember the Scripture’s clear focus on liberation of the poor and oppressed from injustice, we are reminded of the vision and gift of jubilee – equity and justice for all. The essence and nature of Torah and prophetic announcement is caregiving, and comfort for the weak and brokenhearted, even to their freedom. If we don’t contribute to this kind of release and freedom, we act against God’s beautiful will and redeeming plan.
Some theologians have reflected that God prefers the weak and poor to the scriptural traditions. This thought is reflected consistently through the teachings of the prophets, of Jesus, and of Paul. I believe it is true that the biblical imperative is to protect and defend the weak and poor in all the places, and at all times. I believe the center of the Church is intended to be the weak and poor. Those most oppressed and defenseless need to be central to our mission; and we need to focus our prayers and attention to this crucial teaching of the Christian scriptures.
Read again and again the teachings of our Hebrew and Christian heritage; it seems very clear our call is to be guarding and protecting the weak and poor in our communities, and to be careful not to exploit power or privilege. In the Old Testament, specifically in ancient Middle East, “Hebrew” means “wanderer” or “sojourner”. It did not mean “nationality” or “race” or “a chosen people of privilege”; its origin was “poor laborers and scattered strangers” in those times. God claims the poor and dispossessed as God’s own children and they were God’s beloved. Those early Hebrews were unsettled non-entities, viewed as less-than-human, of the lowest nature, and of no value or account. But as is the eternal truth with God, the foolish and despised and rejected became the chosen and beloved. God’s eyes were focused on those left out, abandoned, discarded, and viewed as less-than-human by the world at large.
“I am your God, and you are my people,” says the Lord, time after time. When the people forgot this simple but sublime relationship, God’s ears stopped listening to the outcry of the Hebrews. When the people were faithful, God readily responded. God takes care of those who cannot care for themselves. When the privileged looked down on the Hebrew people, God looked after them. When they failed and fell throughout history, God recognized their vulnerability and weakness, and honored them. When they were despised, God protected them without conditions.
This is, I feel, the root of the mission and purpose of the Christian Church today. We most please God when we refocus on the weak as the center of our mission -- the poor as living partners, strangers, and aliens as friends and sojourners. The more we get along well with and respect each other – especially the poor, the weak, the oppressed, and the brokenhearted – the more we truly love each other in God’s creation; this defines our purpose and mission, and gives us clear direction in the new year.
I strongly believe the weak should be the center of our missiology for justice and mercy ministries. We allow God to build the peace and transform the world when we remember to place the weak at the center of all we do. We learn what God wants us to do and be…
Hear again, “…to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.” (Isaiah 61:3a)
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).