Opening Our Eyes to Human Suffering

Introduction Jesus announced that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Of the four gospel writings in the New Testament, Luke’s gospel gives special attention to the theme of the gospel as “good news to the poor.” Luke’s emphasis has import for millions of Americans facing stifling poverty rooted in centuries of slavery, legal discrimination, militarism, and economic exploitation. The theme of the gospel as good news to the poor has been peripheral in American Christianity besides sporadic movements and exceptional leaders such as the poor people’s campaign under Martin Luther King, Jr. Given widespread poverty among Americans of all hues, the challenge for churches and its leaders will be to interpret the meaning of the gospel as good news to the poor. Until the gospel is interpreted in such a light, sermons, ministries, theologies, and advocacy work will continue to ignore this central and important issue for our churches and communities, which will continue to feed the decline and irrelevance of Christianity in America. The Gospel of Luke and the Poor A good place to begin is by making a connection between the gospel and poor people. When most people think of the gospel, they think of Jesus dying on the cross to save their personal sins, not God’s love for the world. Jesus as savior is an important part of the gospel but God’s love for the world and judgment of the ways we distort his will are just as important. That is why Luke has become my favorite gospel writer. Luke’s Jesus makes it impossible to have a cozy relationship with an unjust world that allows mass suffering while following him. Luke’s Jesus also brings a word of hope to those being crushed by unjust systems.

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