As Christmas approaches, we remember how Christ moved in among us.
John 1:14a says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (NKJV). Or as the Message paraphrase puts it, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
I am part of a movement called MoveIn where, seeking to imitate Christ’s example, we “move in to the neighborhood.” In particular, we move into neighborhoods—or “patches” as we call them in MoveIn—that are unreached, urban, and poor.
We move in as small teams of regular people—people with jobs or raising small children, or students. We pray weekly in our neighborhoods and then trust the Lord to lead us in how to share Christ’s love and good news with our neighbors, as neighbors. That might take the form of helping newcomers with complicated paperwork, tutoring kids, starting Bible studies, helping people in crises, sharing meals; there are thousands of ways to be the hands and feet of Christ in our neighborhoods.
This past year, one “MoveIner” had the joy of journeying with her neighbor, an Afghan woman, as the crisis in Afghanistan unfolded. Meanwhile, this woman was crying to God to reveal Himself to her. He responded by appearing to her in a dream. The woman describes “a man in white, glowing as bright as the sun.” Her MoveIner friend told her it was Jesus. Today, this woman is a follower of Jesus! Not only that, but she shared about Jesus with her family back home in Afghanistan and they too are now following him. Praise the Lord!
In a few weeks’ time we are turning 13 years old as a movement. Since MoveIn began, we have seen dozens of people discover Jesus and choose to follow him, and we have seen thousands of lives touched, including our own. Today we are a movement of 400 people on 85 teams in 85 neighborhoods in 45 cities in 14 countries. We are privileged collectively to know 25,000 of our neighbors by name.
As a movement we move into neighborhoods that are—again—unreached, urban and poor. Let’s focus here on this last aspect: the poor, and God’s heart for them.
In Luke 4, Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read this passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (NIV here and below)
To use a little bit of poetic license, it was as if somebody asked Jesus, “Why are you here?”
He answered, “To preach good news to the poor.”
Then, in Matthew 5, Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with this opening line: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Here Jesus is saying that those who enter heaven are those who are poor in spirit. (Could it be that none of us were saved except in a moment of being poor in spirit: in a moment when we recognized our utter need for God?)
Luke describes it this way, “Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’” (Luke 6:20).
There are as many as 2,000 versions in Scripture about God’s heart for the poor.
In Proverbs 19:17 it says, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.” Imagine lending to the Lord: what a privilege.
Some who are focused on the proclamation of the gospel might say, “We don’t have time to help the poor. Too many people haven’t heard the gospel, so we must focus on that. Let the liberals take care of the poor.” But this would be an unbiblical approach. For those focused on robust doctrine (a critical role in the Body of Christ), consider this passage from Galatians 2:8-10:
For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me [Paul] as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
Here “those esteemed as pillars” agree to “remember the poor.” The apostle Paul drives it home with the phrases “all they asked” and “the very thing I had been eager to do.”
With Christmas approaching, we remember He—Christ—who “became nothing” (Philippians 2:5-11) and entered our world. As we consider the poor, there is no greater example than His as stated in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
May we find ourselves rich in Christ this Christmas season, even while being poor in spirit and remembering the poor.
Nigel Paul is the Founder and International Director of MoveIn.