When Social Justice Isn’t Sexy: and how the Eucharist can help!

Kingdom of GodA few years ago I was visiting friends in my hometown back in Michigan.  A guy there I knew worked with the city newspaper and due to some contract disputes their union had been on strike for months.  He shared with me the financial strains it had put he and his co-workers through.  He added:

Steve, one of the guys we work with is like you, a “re-born” Christian.  He gives 10% of his salary to his church which we always told him was crazy.  Now that he and his family are going through a hard time we keep telling him that with all the money he has given to that church over the years he should ask them for a little help now. 

Of course he won’t ask though and the church doesn’t bother to see how they are doing but you know, our local Catholic church found all the guys affected by the strike and, whether they were Catholic or not, went around with Thanksgiving turkeys and bags of groceries for the families.  Why don’t the “re-born” churches do that? he asked.

My first thought was that they were probably in the midst of a building program but I kept that one to myself.

Over the years though that encounter has stuck with me, especially now as I wrestle with questioning ‘what did Jesus REALLY care about?’


This last weekend I attended the Justice Conference Asia and in one of the workshops the question got asked, “How do we not overlook the needy around us as we pursue the “sexier” justice issues like child labor and developing world poverty.”  The man leading the workshop admitted it is a concern as certain justice issues are more “sexy” and tend to get more attention than others.

The picture of a child with a bloated belly in Africa will generate more sympathy (and let’s be honest, more fundraising dollars) than the guy at church who lost his job a couple months ago and now whose family is struggling to pay the bills.

But shouldn’t the justice Christ brings compel compassion for BOTH?

I wonder though if the “prophet has no honor in his home town” (Mark 6:4) principal affects Christians and the church when we engage in areas of justice. In fact, sometimes a focus on injustice which is safely “over there” allows us the privilege of ignoring justice issues on our own doorsteps.

Communion bread and wine

There is a cure God gives us for this area of need and injustice on our doorstep though; something we often overlook.

The Eucharist!

Many evangelical traditions (my own included) tend to put the focus of Communion on examining one’s individual heart before partaking of the wine and the bread.  However the Lord’s Table is so much more;  it is the antidote for injustice and need in our midst.  When we go beyond our “self” and also examine our community, church group, or neighborhood before enjoying communion we create opportunities to corporately address areas of need in our often ignored immediate surroundings.  Blind spots are revealed!

Rob Bell was asked if he were to pastor a church again would he do anything different.  He responded:

“I would have Eucharist a lot. .. if you have the bread and the wine, and on a really regular basis, you put the bread and wine on the table and you say “Okay everybody – here you go: Body broken, blood poured out…Has everyone got their rent paid?  Anyone have any medical bills”

What if our communion at the Lord’s Table involved an examination, a taking of the pulse, of what is going unspoken by the people we interact with on a regular basis?  What would that look like?

I’ll finish with a Bible verse that scares the bejeebees out of a lot of Christians.  In fact, it’s so terrifying that a thousand and one explanations have been given as to why it doesn’t necessarily apply in the same way today.

  All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.   With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Acts 4: 32- 35

Interesting it was God’s Grace at work that met people’s need.  Christ’s blood offered…Christ’s body broken.  Could meeting people’s need for justice be all about Christ and not us?  What happens when we turn to Heaven to banish “need” instead of Earth?

I don’t know about you, but after 37 years of Christian life, I’m ready to give it a try!


  • Sandy

    Well Steve,when my husband was ill(cancer) my husband probably wondered why I did not go to the church and ask for help.I had this line of thinking.I am a FAITH person.Should I ask for help? My DH worked until he could not any longer.A very dear friend of my husbands ask for help via e-mail for us.He is not associated with a church.Just did a friend kindness thing.Are we afraid to ask?.Maybe.Besides at my church your entitled to help once a year.My DH was ill for two and one half years.

    • Steve

      Thank you for sharing your story Sandy. People are often willing to help, but sometimes they just need to know.

  • Bernice

    Years ago when our youngest was newly home and we were struggling with her trauma induced rages and horrible sleep deprivation, a couple we were getting to know (also in process of adoption) came to our door one evening with 2 other couples with bags filled with homemade frozen meals. At their church group they were inspired to a random act of kindness, to help another who was strugglin… We were that recipient … It was an amazing experience … In part because we did not belong to either their church nor their faith … something which mattered little to them.

    • Steve

      Sacrificial love without thought of what we recieve from it reflects Christ. Thanks for sharing Bernice!

  • Bob

    Oh my, Steve. This hits home and makes me uncomfortable. Thanks for that.

    I agree with Rob Bell (still a closet fan, although I recommended Love Wins to a friend recently). The Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Communion, whatever we want to call it — makes us all equal. Although I don’t fully buy in to the Catholics’ way of looking at it, I sometimes think they have a better view of it than I do. It’s one of the most powerful and holy (if not THE most powerful and holy) gifts we have. Broken and spilled out, indeed.

    • Steve

      Hey Bob, Sorry about the discomfort 🙂 Yes, I agree that although I don’t fully buy in with the Catholic beliefs on Communion, I think they have a bit to teach we Protestants who I believe reduce it.

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