by J. Randal Matheny
Paula, a sister in Christ here in Sao Jose dos Campos, shared with my wife yesterday some challenges of ministering to the poor, as she works with other Christians in a sweater campaign.
A few months back, at the beginning of winter (we live below the equator, remember), they contacted several care institutions with an offer to donate clothes. Most of these raised a number of requirements, such as meeting with a social worker, before they would consider accepting the donations.
The church didn’t want to adopt anybody, just give clothes to those who needed them. But the bureaucracy of these institutions, imposed in part perhaps by the government, inhibited action and made the giving of donations an onerous process.
It’s a wonderful principle in Christ that his followers need not ask anybody’s permission to serve. No one’s stamp of approval is needed in order to preach, teach, evangelize, encourage, correct, reprove, exhort, serve, contribute, lead, pray, study, invite — you get the idea.
One doesn’t even need an elder’s or preacher’s go-ahead to live a holy life, be light to the world, or speak the word of Christ.
In fact, when we were baptized, we received full authorization to serve in the kingdom of God. We were not only given permission, but we were called to enter his royal service.
The single requirement: to be a child of God.
No bureaucracy. No red tape. No frowning naysayers sitting behind battered desks or glass-partitioned counters.
Instead of red tape, Christ’s blood forgives our sins and allows us to forget ourselves. Rather than clerks with well inked “Request Denied” stamps, God gives us gifts and bids us find ways to reach our neighbors.
We are free in Christ to serve. If bureaucracy inhibits action, the gospel incites service.
Use this freedom!
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 NET).
Government or institutional bureaucracy inhibits actions for good; the gospel liberates one for service.