Throughout the Bible God calls attention to the most vulnerable. The people of God are to always stay mindful of the needy, the poor, the widows, the refugees, the fatherless, the sick, and the incarcerated. In Matthew 25, Jesus provides three pictures of the Kingdom of God. In the third picture, he speaks of a King who draws all nations unto Himself and separates them into two groups.
To the group of nations on His right, He gives an invitation to enter into the Kingdom of God because they addressed his hunger, thirst, sickness, outcast-ness, nakedness, and incarceration. This group of nations are surprised wondering when they provided these social services to this great King. He then reveals to them that their serving of the most vulnerable around them is a direct serving of Him.
This story from Christ is not a new word from God. God speaks as both an instructor and a judge to His people on multiple occasions about the connection between righteousness, covenant relationship, and justice for the most vulnerable. What is radical about this call to serve the disinherited is that it is not limited to what the people of God are going through. Whether in a season of prosperity in the promised land or as exiles under a foreign empire, God never lets the chosen people off the hook from the mandate of compassion and justice.
The church must remember this all-seasonal call to compassion and justice in the current season it finds itself in. Neither storms, violence, divisive politics, nor viruses should keep the church from its mission. Bayside Church Midtown is currently the multiethnic and urban expression of the multisite, Bayside Church. When California in response to the Coronavirus moved to a Shelter in Place state, Bayside Church moved from an onsite church to an online church. But even in the transition to a new season calling for a rethinking of what it means to be the church, we didn’t forget about the most vulnerable around us. By Bayside Church having a thriving and flourishing multiethnic campus in the heart of Sacramento, we were positioned for direct action. In partnership with other ministries, we continue to provide a portable shower trailer and food to the homeless. We are delivering groceries to the elderly and under-resourced. This is the all-seasonal mandate of God upon the church.
Bayside Church exists to “Make Disciples of All Nations” (Matthew 28). One of the strategic ways we live into that purpose is by unleashing compassion. Biblical compassion is not simply rooted in mercy and pity. Biblical compassion is directly connected to righteousness and justice. The work of justice is not how we are saved; that comes through the finished work of Christ. But at the same time, how can we truly be saved by Christ and in turn followers of Christ and not be a people of compassion and justice? The Church must serve as both an embassy of the Kingdom of God and a force of justice for the most vulnerable. Though we live in an upside-down, sinful, and broken world that brings unexpected and challenging seasons, the people of God must serve as representatives of the Kingdom of God by serving as a sustained army of compassion and justice.
-Dr. Efrem Smith, Bayside Pastor