Is meeting someone’s physical needs or spiritual needs more important? And which approach really makes a difference in a troubled world?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #54 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
The ministry with which I serve, SAT-7, works to share the gospel and Christian teaching with people throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.
SAT-7 does this 24/7, presenting God’s Word and Christian hope via un-censorable satellite television broadcasts and now also online video on demand.
Yet with that, I find it interesting that when people, including Christian radio staff who interview me, become aware of serious crises in the region – which is nearly every week – they ask, “What is SAT-7 doing?” Emphasis on the word “doing.”
What they mean—whether they realize it—or what they are implying, is that physical or humanitarian needs require a direct physical response. Providing food, clothing, housing. I’ll call this, Feeding the body.
This need and opportunity for direct physical response could develop in the wake of war, growing food insecurity, poverty, or serious spin offs of social unrest…
There is, of course, nothing wrong with, and in fact a lot right with, responding to physical or humanitarian needs by, so to speak, feeding the body. To love your neighbor as yourself you can do no less than respond to people’s physical or humanitarian needs.
Some Christian nonprofit organizations and NGOs are exclusively dedicated to direct physical or material responses to people’s physical and humanitarian needs. This is a good thing.
But, while providing people with physical help, like food and clothing, even money, is good, even commanded of believers, still, providing for physical or humanitarian needs with material goods is not all they need and tends to address only immediate circumstances.
This is not a criticism of organizations or people who work to feed the body. It’s just an observation about the total picture.
The question remains, have we helped them in the long term?
Since SAT-7 is a broadcast and media ministry, it is not typically and regularly working on ground with material resources. So in some people’s minds, SAT-7 is apparently not “doing” anything. But then again, SAT-7 is “doing” something every day. It’s feeding the soul. It is broadcasting the gospel, the most powerful transformative message in the world.
Sharing Christ with needy people—including those in the midst of crises—then seeing dramatic spiritual change in their lives, allows us to witness how spiritual transformation changes how people think and act, often affecting their personal opportunities and condition.
My friend Tom Atema, observed, “Jesus knows that he can make a person's life better, and then they will become better at life. They will, as they mature, have an inward want to to make their life better - and they do. It’s one evidence that a person has accepted Jesus as Savior and is growing in this relationship. New believers gain dignity and self-respect. They become image bearers of Jesus in their everyday life. Before long, they take themselves off the aid given and provide for themselves.”
It seems to me that some Christians don’t really have the confidence or deep-down belief that their faith can change the world. They seem to be looking for something else, some other solution to address the intractable social problems confronting us.
If so, in my view, they are missing the point that they already have the answer. They are God’s ambassadors of reconciliation. And they must have the understanding and the confidence to acknowledge that no other values or approaches or philosophies offer the power of new creation that is in the gospel:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here,” (2 Cor. 5:17).
As the late British theologian John Stott once put it: “Evangelism is the major instrument of social change. For the Gospel changes people and changed people can change society.”
We know God’s Word makes a difference because we can see some changes with our eyes. We experience the fulfilment of his promises.
We know God’s Word makes a difference because he promised this in his Word: Scripture says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11).
So, “What is SAT-7 doing?” Well, it is sharing with desperate people the one and best solution to every and all problems, every and all challenges, which is to say, SAT-7 is pointing people with a relational, sin-problem dilemma to the one relationship that resolves their dilemma, salvation in Christ.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022
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