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"We’re Going to Burn in Hell for This"

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.
At lunch last Tuesday, a friend was wearing one of the white ONE bracelets. Another diner asked him what he was protesting or supporting with the bracelet. When my friend explained that the ONE bracelet represented the fight against poverty and AIDS in Africa, he added, “We’re going to burn in hell for this one. The church has really missed the boat on Africa.”

Last week I wrote about how exciting it would be if the church or other religious groups were the catalyst in ending poverty, genocide, AIDS and hunger, all of which plague Africa. Without getting Sally Struthers-esque, we throw away leftovers or trash old clothes without giving a second thought. We complain when it’s too hot outside, when the bugs are bad or when it won’t stop raining, all before retreating into our homes and apartments, complete with the latest in air conditioning and water heating technologies. We can’t imagine the reality of Africa’s poor and refugees, and over a billion people around the world can’t imagine our reality of disposable food and feeling ‘full.’

My friend said his comment with a laugh, but not to be taken lightly, he added, “No, I’m serious. For years Africa has been crying for help and the American church has stood by and hasn’t answered.” It reminded me of a story Jesus told.

Jesus told a story of two men: one rich, and the other, a beggar, named Lazarus. The rich man had all the luxuries of life: a fine house, the best clothes, servants, plenty of food, and disposable income for the future. At the same time, Lazarus was as poor as we can imagine, in shabby clothes, with barely anything to eat. And to plague him further, disease riddled him until the day he died. To further dramatize the situation, the rich man had full knowledge of Lazarus’ condition, and seemingly did nothing, save offer him the crumbs that had already fallen onto a dirty, dusty floor.

The story continues after both men have died, and Lazarus is in the Promised Land while the rich man is burning in hell. Able to see the comfort that Lazarus now had, the rich man begged that he might receive just one drop of water to cool his tongue. The request was denied, with Abraham reminding the rich man that he already had his heaven on earth and now was left to deal with his hell. Lazarus of course, had it the other way around. The hearer is left to think how things could have been different.

Those of us who know about the plight of others and do nothing are just like the rich man. This story is not about spreading the gospel, or baptizing people, or inviting people to church. This parable is about taking the wealth that we have and giving it to those in need. Period. No questions of merit are to be asked, no inquiries about future plans are to be put forth, and no worries about how much money will be in your bank account tomorrow should enter your mind. This story is about the generous giving of the haves so that the have-nots can become have-a-littles.

No doubt many of you will whine that there are a million obstacles in the way, and that there are other worthy causes. Churches have buildings to maintain, basketball leagues to host, and potlucks to cook. Christians have the abortion issue and gay marriage that needs supporting or protesting. We have to get prayer back in schools (or keep it out), the Ten Commandments back in the courthouse (or keep them out) and put another Christian in the White House (or keep one out). We have school plays to put on, soccer teams to join, and vacations to take. We have bills to pay, movies to rent, and shows to TiVo.
Have fun with all of that. Africa will worry about those things, too, one day. Right now, though, they need something to eat.

“"We’re Going to Burn in Hell for This"”