Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
by Josh Fuentes
This week in the “Kingdom Experiment,” we are trying to understand what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I believe this is a concept that can be difficult for American believers to comprehend, because lets be honest, we don’t know what its like to be hungry. How many of us have opened our refrigerator or kitchen pantry, looked inside at shelves full of food and said, “there’s nothing to eat?” We are blessed because we have more food than we know what to do with. However, that wasn’t what it was like for those who lived while Jesus walked the earth. People during this time lived for the day at hand. They worked for a day’s wage, which provided food for the day. If no one worked, there was no food. People knew what it meant to be hungry. We on the other hand, only understand what it means to have an appetite.
So what’s the difference between having an appetite and experiencing hunger? One of my students, who is majoring in Kinesiology, helped me understand the difference last night. When our bodies tell us it’s time to eat, even though we can go a little longer without food, that’s when we experience an appetite. However, when our bodies have exhausted all of its energy supplies (from not eating for days) and tells us we must eat or we will die, that’s when we experience hunger. We have an appetite for righteousness, not so much a complete hunger for it that if we don’t get it, we will die. So when Jesus tells the people listening to him to hunger and thirst for righteousness, they get what he’s trying to say. Furthermore, now they have a hope to look forward too because their hunger will finally be filled by God.
Yet, how does God fill us? In order for us to get to this conclusion, the ”Kingdom Experiment” wanted us to know about the year of Jubilee. When Israel was being established as a nation, God commanded Israel to allow all debts cancelled, slaves freed, property given back, and for every thing to experience complete restoration every 49 years (Leviticus 25:8-22). God put this practice into place to insure his people would never fully oppress each other or the sojourner who inhabited the land he gave them. This was God’s way to make sure divine justice would happen, since he knows how greedy his creation can be. The year of Jubilee was almost like a reboot for the nation to start over again, and find its way back to being the people God called them to be. Unfortunately, Israel never practiced this amazing year, and it makes me wonder what life would be like in America if we ever practiced such a thing?
Yet, there is something else to think about: the relationship between Jubilee and justice. When justice takes place, celebration soon follows, and when I look at the world around me, there doesn’t seem too much to celebrate because justice isn’t happening the way it should be. Our nation will never practice jubilee so justice can never be truly experienced; however, jubilee may be something the church should consider practicing. Which brings us to the next question the “Kingdom Experiment” asked, “How can we bring divine justice to our church? Our community?”
To bring divine justice to our community, we have to bring justice back into the church, which happens when we understand our role as being the body of Christ. To me, and hopefully you as well, Christ is all about redemption. When he walked the earth, he corrected what was wrong and restored people back to their proper place. Redemption is the entire reason why Christ died on the cross, so we can be restored back to our proper place as God’s creation. So if Christ is all about redeeming what is wrong, and we are his body, do you think that should be something we should be doing on a regular basis: redeeming the world around us? Christ has called all of us to redeem, and when we’re not redeeming, we’re not being the Church.
So how does that look like in the local church? I’ve wonder how church would be different if our budgets were more outward focused instead of being inward focused. For example, we have line items to support local and international missions (which is good), but why don’t we have line items to send people to do local and international missions? I’ve never understood why people think they need to experience a financial sacrifice to do missions when they have already been sacrificing their finances to their church. In my opinion, if a church wants to send its members to do local, regional, or international missions it should pay for them to go. It makes me wonder how many more people would be willing to do missions if they already knew the cost was taken care of?
I’ve also wondered why we build massive structures for us to gather in once or twice a week, and not structures for people to live in who need a place to stay. How amazing would it be to take a family, who lives on the streets, and give them a free place to stay. Yet, not only do they have a free place to stay, but the church helps them get back on their feet again. The church gives them clean cloths, help them find a job, learn how to do a budget, help them save enough money to move into their own place, and most importantly, be apart of the fellowship of believers, because all of this is happening in the same place people gather to worship God. The same could also go for those who have been released from prison too.
With all this talk about redemption, I must ask myself three questions. (1) Am I part of a church that is redeeming the community around it? (2) Am I instilling a theology of redemption to the students God has given me to shepherd? (3) Am I redeeming the people in my own personal world? These are hard questions to ask ourselves because we are faced with the cold truth: the answers to all these questions is no. However, I have come to the conclusion it doesn’t have to be this way. Every aspect of Christianity can can be redeemed if we stop settling for only filling out appetites, and instead, having a true hunger for God. So if you haven’t figured out the answer to “how does God fill us?” Here’s the answer, hunger for God also means a hunger to redeem the world. If we’re not redeeming the world around us, we will never be filled by God.