The following story is true—you can’t make up this kind of stuff. I’ve obscured details where possible.
Some friends are organizing a community-wide event as a centralized way to address unmet needs in our area. The basic idea is to provide medical care, food, access to community services, shoes, eyeglasses, entertainment, and whatever else they can bring together in a day of service. In my humble opinion it’s a great demonstration of Christ’s love, reaching out to a segment of our community that has obvious, desperate needs and doesn’t always feel connected to, or welcome in, the church.
So a local “ministry professional” objects. Why? Because as Christians we shouldn’t provide for “immediate practical needs” without insisting that anyone being served also submit to what amounts to a religious re-education. In other words, we should make medical exams and shoes contingent on listening to a sermon. To do otherwise would be to “share love without truth.”
Apparently there’s something wrong with providing a family portrait to a family that may have never had that opportunity—unless it’s first made clear that the family’s going to hell. Giving glasses or shoes to a kid is “enabling a state of separation” because we’re not “showing which choices bring death.” Doing so makes one guilty of “blind giving or grace.”
It’s not sufficient to value these folks as children of God. “They must know they are not valuable or worthy because of their desires, need or want.” They must be explicitly told that “we’re not responding to their physical needs but to their value as Created beings in the image of God.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. I don’t mean to pick on this individual, but I absolutely mean to take issue with a notion of conditional service that violates everything I understand about agape.
As I considered this issue, I wondered about the people who will be helped by International Justice Mission through our upcoming bike ride. I hope unconditional rescue is provided to children in sexual slavery. I’m pretty sure Jesus won’t condemn those who stop a human trafficker because they didn’t first witness to the victims.
I absolutely believe every person needs to hear the truth about Jesus. I just don’t believe that truth ought to be tied to food for the hungry.
I think Jesus, in blue jeans and a t-shirt, would offer water to a thirsty man whether or not he listened to the sermon. I think He’d be happy to share completely unconditional love.
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