Most of the church in Johannesburg's suburbs lives oblivious to the horrific suffering of the 57% of South Africans who live in extreme poverty. The only encounters most have with the poor are through wound-up-windows at traffic lights in air-conditioned cars, through one-sided exploitative employment relationships or through the safety of impersonal media.
The more we live among the urban poor, while maintaining relationships with our suburban friends, the more we see two worlds almost separated by a great chasm in this life. The one world, consisting of our marginalized friends experiences devastating levels of suffering. We regularly see trauma, death, exploitation and inhumane living conditions. The other world seems isolated by luxury and seems to be persuing everything but the Kingdom of God. I want to shout out - it is 57% of our city. The conditions are not OK! Life is not about accumulating possessions, or about comfort and convenience. We need to live in the jubilee proclamations of scripture to ensure there is not a needy person among us. God has blessed the church with the means to meet the need, but she is using it to serve her greed.
Surely the parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31 - see below) serves as a sober warning and begs the question if we don't change - how will the suburban church escape the judgement of God
The Rich Man and Lazarus
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”