Does God Favor the Poor?

I am excited about next week’s trip to Managua, Nicaragua. Along with 8 other United Methodists, I will be visiting missionaries Nan McCurdy and Miguel Mairena. Providentially, I first met Nan and Miguel a few years ago when I was immersing myself in liberation theologians like Justo Gonzales and Gustavo Gutierrez.

I am indebted to liberation theology for drawing my attention to poor countries that are kept subservient by military force, prosperous nations that prosper at the expense of the impoverished, and large corporations who exploit cheap labor

Life in an affluent, suburban culture obscures these facts, which is tragic considering much of redemptive history is written from the perspective of the powerless. God, these theologians remind us, is actively involved with the poor in their struggles, as evidenced by the incarnation. Liberation theology also sheds light on the signs of a true church, among which are solidarity with the poor, sensitivity to oppression, and the search for justice and peace. I believe wherever there is a passion for social justice there is an in-breaking of the kingdom, which is wider and deeper than the visible church.

However, has liberation theology emphasized political freedom, while failing to give primacy to freedom from sin? I believe freedom in Christ should necessarily have effects on the social level, but the New Testament stresses the radical character of the freedom offered to all, whether they be politically free or enslaved. Certainly the church must confront structural evil, but shouldn’t such evil be viewed as the consequences of sin, rather than its cause?

 

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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