During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.
Eager to Remember the Poor
Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ primarily to the Jews, while Paul ministered mainly among the Gentiles. The danger of conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians was real, but Peter and Paul, with their co-workers, understood that the Gospel of Jesus Christ unites all believers into one Body, whether Jew or Gentile.
Whether Jew or Gentile, all are equally sinners, all are equally saved by believing in Jesus Christ alone, and all are equally valued by God as members of Christ’s Church.
The unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians was not just a matter of talk. The early church showed its equality and fellowship in Christ In a very simple, practical and profound way. How? By remembering the poor. Peter said to Paul, All we ask is that you remember the poor, and Paul responded, That’s the very thing I was eager to do! (Galatians 2:10)
And they did. When the Jewish churches Judea suffered from severe famine, the Gentile churches in Macedonia stepped up with overwhelming generosity and gave even beyond what they could afford! (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4)
What a powerful demonstration of the love of Christ living in His children!
This is what Jesus does to believers – he turns us from inward-focused into outward-focused people, from self-centered to generous, from unconcerned to caring about the needs of others: first of all for the needs of fellow Christians around the world, but also for the pain and poverty of all people, regardless of nationality, race, class, religion, or lifestyle.
As a society facing COVID-19, we have largely focused on our own turmoil and needs in our own country and communities. Our first-world economies have been hard-hit, but nothing like the economies of developing countries and marginalized peoples around the world.
Consider, first, that 40% of the world’s population has no access to facilities for hand-washing. Most of these people have no access to health care, and, if they do, their hospitals do not have ventilators and other necessary equipment for battling the disease. Countries like Ecuador, Bangladesh and India are left behind as first world countries rush to equip their own nations with medical equipment.
Thankfully, many developing nations have not been severely impacted by the virus because of the warmer climates and young demographics. However, a much deeper and more long-term devastation is being experienced in the form of extreme poverty. Most people in the developing world live hand-to- mouth. What they make each day is barely enough to feed themselves and their families.
The result of a shutdown is immediately felt at the breakfast table. Imagine you’re the child of a Bangladeshi rickshaw driver. One study found their earnings collapsing by an average of 78%.
Think of the impact of Prime Minister Modi’s 21-day lockdown for India’s 1.3 billion population. Half of them live below the poverty level.
Eighty-four percent of Kenya’s labour force lives day-to-day and has no ability to stock up on supplies. No work means no food or education. (see Nicholas Kristof, “This Pandemic is Bringing Another With It: More Suffering is Ahead for the Developing World,” New York Times: April 22, 2020)
In countries where Christians are persecuted, this especially has an impact on our brothers and sisters in Christ who are the first to lose their jobs and livelihood.
Migrant workers are also immediately impacted. Think of the 2.3 million Filipino workers in the Middle-East. There are 1000s of Christian congregations among them. The shutdown of shops and industries, and the crisis of low oil prices, has left most of them without work, and unable to send money back to their poor families back home.
This barely scratches the surface of the global poverty pandemic resulting from COVID-19.
Estimates are that for the first time in 30 years world poverty will increase, and that by approximately 500 million people. A lockdown may seem like a good strategy to halt the spread of coronavirus but let’s remember that for millions, even billions, of people in developing countries it is simply not an option.
They asked us only to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.Galatians 2:10
For the sake of Christ, let’s be eager to remember the poor. Even though we need to take care of our own house, Christ calls us to look beyond ourselves and remember the poor who have no government, no employer, and no network to help them.
Let’s honor our Saviour by praying for and supporting in whatever way we can our brothers and sisters around the world for whom Christ died. We exalt the Gospel of Christ and honor His one Body in a profound and practical way when we are eager to remember the poor.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith.Galatians 6:10