What I find interesting, and telling, is that none of these strategies are really incarnational. That is, they don’t involve us getting too close, too involved, too personally invested, in the people we are trying to help.
My family talks about this stuff often, and we desire to become more and more effective at doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
Here’s an interesting article about some of the ways we (typically middle-class Christians in North America) try to help the poor and oppressed. Most importantly, some folks tried to analyze the real impact of these popular ways we try to help. [Click the link below for the article.]
Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.
My family pursues a few of these strategies, hoping it will make a real difference. What I find interesting, and telling, is that none of these strategies are really incarnational. That is, they don’t involve us getting too close, too involved, too personally invested, in the people we are trying to help. The gospel, as communicated in the Bible, is inherently incarnational. Could not God have just ‘written a check?’ Perhaps not. So, Christ chose to renounce his privilege and position and distance from the people with the problem – us.
In my family’s discussion of all this, we are finding ourselves more and more drawn to what we know to be the truth; while some help can be offered from a distance, true understanding and true transformation most often requires us to come alongside those we desire to help. This article shows how complex some of these situations really are. Unless we are part of the context, we will almost certainly miss that complexity and come up with a solution that is only partially effective, or one that even makes problems worse!
We are thinking about how we can free ourselves from our self-centeredness, our need for security, approval, or just our stuff – to become free to incarnate in a more fully Christlike way among those who Jesus came to serve and save.
More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people…Still, it is not as simple as it seems…
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems…”
A friend of mine, Scott Lundeen, runs a ministry called Urban Entry here in Denver. He creates media resources to help envision and equip people to engage in relationships and service among the poor and marginalized in our communities. I think they’re doing some cool stuff.
This video was just posted on his blog site. It is based on a quote from Henri Nowen and gets right to the heart of a struggle we often face. Those of us who are acculturated for performance and delivering measurable results as a way of measuring our worth do well to consider Jesus’ call to be in relationship first. It’s what Nowen refers to as a ‘ministry of presence.’ Check it out.
Do you feel the same struggle in your vocation or avocation to make a difference in peoples’ lives? Do you feel envious of programs that get media attention or that are better resourced. Do you feel pressure to ‘achieve’ in a way that ultimately takes you ‘off the streets’?
I sometimes whine about my sad lot – that it’s difficult to see how I can sustain what God has called me to do, that I feel pressure to jump on the social media train that demands I become ‘famous’ in order to become influential and effective. But I feel God’s correction when I really am with the people I want to serve: with my film students, on Skype calls with friends in Africa who teach me as much as I want to teach them, these are the moments of reality and clarity.
My prayer for you is that you have many of those moments, even in the midst of the “necessary” things that shadow the life-giving things.