On the Corner

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Like pulling teeth?

I really hope I’m wrong, but…

It seems to me it’s like pulling teeth to get many “insiders” in this modern-day Army to accept the notion that our theology includes anything else besides salvation and sanctification. Moreover, it’s equally difficult to get various “outsiders” to perceive the Army as anything else but a highly competent social service agency operated by very low paid workers.

Both fail to see what William Booth actually created.

We are one Army with one theology that includes both personal redemption and social redemption. We’re holistic. We concern ourselves with all aspects of the human condition–physical, mental, emotional, situational, social–and spiritual.

Those “insiders” who seem only concerned with personal redemption seem to have forgotten this whole idea of holistic ministry didn’t start with Booth. It started with Jesus. For example–toward the end of his earthly ministry Jesus talked about judgment day–about separating sheep from goats–and about the criteria the judge would use in making the separation.

The criteria by which we will be judged involve feeding the hungry, providing drink for the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, ministering to the sick, visiting prisoners–and doing it for one of the least among us.

It’s as much a mistake not to take this last of Jesus’ parables literally as it is to presume that its only meaning lies in direct social rehabilitation alone.

The “outsiders” seem to forget that people can be poor in spirit–that they can hunger and thirst after righteousness–that they often feel lost and lonely, a spiritual stranger to God–that self-centeredness only delivers personality disorders–that they have imprisoned themselves in value systems laden with a narcissistic contempt for others.

And so the miracle of Booth’s integration of a theology of personal redemption and one of social redemption must remain fully in the consciousness of every Salvationist.

If it’s not happening in your corps–in your social service program–ask yourself why. Jesus said this kind of integration was essential. I know, in this day and age we have specialists–people who focus on a single aspect of the job. This is as it should be. I believe, however, that we can’t delegate big chunks of our Christian love to someone else.

Let’s look at our corps–and specifically at one dramatically underutilized and completely holistic program–the League of Mercy. This program captures the essence of holistic ministry–yet, sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to get people involved in it. Perhaps it’s because the program has sort of limited itself to hospital visitation. It’s a lot more than that. It’s got a good name, but it doesn’t do the program justice. Maybe that’s why I hear they’re thinking about changing it. It’s a caring ministry. That’s what we call it in our corps. It’s compassion in action. It’s one on one. It focuses on the vulnerable–on the marginalized–on the lonely among us. It’s involved in community development. It’s not limited to any age group or level of expertise. You don’t have to be a preacher or a Bible scholar to do it. You don’t even have to wear a uniform–but it’s amazing how many doors that uniform opens. You just have to care about “the least among us” and reveal that caring spirit in some way.

The League of Mercy is limited only to the extent of our creativity–only to the dimensions of our own imagination–only to the measure of our own will.

This is just one way–with one historic, 110 year-old program that is ready for dusting off and shining up. It takes a little effort–a little scheduling–being a little open to new ideas. Think what happens to the dimensions of your faith as you put it in action and stretch a little. Think what happens to you.

Stop daydreaming…

Stop daydreaming…

By Major Paul Seiler – You may think I am daydreaming when I sit back in a

FOCUS – Divisive people: three strikes and you’re out

FOCUS – Divisive people: three strikes and you’re out

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