I find it interesting that we as Christians are so divided over what is "most important" missionally in our churches. I've heard pastors argue that evangelism is the most important thing, and I've heard pastors argue that compassion/justice based ministry is most important. Into this mix comes John Perkins who shows us clearly that both of these are simply the devoted response to God's command to "love your neighbor as yourself." (As Perkins has famously said, "Love is the final fight.")
Perkins writes compassionately and compellingly about his "Three R's" - relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution.
Relocation - rather than abandoning devastated communities, we send people into them to become part of them. This is the example set for us by our Savior, who abandoned the glories of heaven to come live among us. Emmanuel, God with Us is the ultimate relocation.
Reconciliation - reconciliation between God and man through the gospel, reconciliation between man and his neighbor by addressing the divisions of class,, race and economics, and seeking just treatment for all.
Redistribution - don't think for a moment that Perkins is speaking of government or welfare; he's talking about bringing people together with all their varied gifts and abilities to break the cycle of poverty. In his own words, "bringing our lives, our skills, our educations, and our resources and putting them to work to empower people in a community of need. [This] is redistribution and it helps people to break out of the cycle of poverty."
It's interesting to me that, as I was reading Perkins' book, I was also reading through the book of Leviticus, and came across this verse:
This is essentially the concept Perkins talks about; rather than outright "charity" as we think of it, the much more costly, messy, and time-consuming process of helping people bring themselves out of their cycle of poverty.
This is a book that I highly recommend for any pastor or layperson who is trying to figure out some of the mechanics of seeking justice and promoting compassion within their communities.