If someone was looking into people that claim to follow Christ they should probably ask one very important question: “What difference does it make in their lives?” We make some pretty bold claims as Christians talking about repenting, about God changing us, about God living inside of us; if all those things are true then people ought to be able to see something different about those who claim to follow Jesus. That would seem to make sense, wouldn’t it? Someone who didn’t know better might look at more well known Christian leaders and note that apparently Jesus is a money making machine because of all the wealth of those who talk about Jesus on TV have. They might look at an “average” Christian and see that they take time out of their week to go to an important meeting. But what would make them different from other people?
What is it that makes God’s people different? That question has followed God’s people throughout the ages. It isn’t the sacrifices, others have made sacrificial offerings to their gods. It isn’t the worship services, others have engaged in worship services to their gods. The one thing that stands out as a “game changer” for the follower of Christ is an attitude that was recognized years before the incarnation of Jesus. Zechariah described it this way: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)
This theme is echoed in various places throughout the New Testament. The overall message is that we, as followers of Christ, are to honor the creation of each and every person in this world as someone made in the image of God. We live in a society that oppresses other people as a matter of course. Those we oppress, of course, are those that are powerless in society, those who can’t fight back. When those who are oppressed do fight back, they run into the power of the state and the power of our culture. Widows and single mothers live, hoping to go unnoticed lest society have the opportunity to express their disapproval. The children of single parents have enormous obstacles to overcome. Foreigners live in hiding while they seek to make a better life for themselves. Those who are poor, which usually includes the above groups as well as many others, often find themselves on the wrong side of the law or other areas of society with no one to advocate for them.
It is to this world that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies calls us; it is this world that the ruler of all creation has placed us. Not only does the stranger ask us what difference our faith makes, so do the voices of all the oppressed. They cry out to us calling for justice. Or perhaps we could say that God calls out to us using their voices. Do we advocate for all those who are oppressed by our society? Do we find ways to support those who need help finding their next meal? When we seek to show God what a difference our faith makes by showing Him our bank book, He calls on us to sell all that we have and give to the poor. When we seek to impress Him with our financial gifts, He calls on us to care for the poor. If we are truly following Jesus Christ, we don’t have a choice in the matter; we are called to support each and every life.
O Lord, we live in a world of broken people. You have called us to bring healing. May we treat each person with the love and respect You have for them. When asked what difference our faith makes, may we always point to the changed lives of those we have ministered to.