Saturday, March 15, 2008

A revolution

The first four chapters of Shane's book, for me, were inspiring. They promote hope. Hope that contrasts my being overwhelmed at the myriad of ugly things in this world. I'm such a fixer, that hearing the staggering numbers of people starving makes my brain shut down. But Shane's stories wake it up again.

This quote helps summarize my feelings:

While the temptation to do great things is always before us, in Khalighat I learned the discipline of doing small things with great deliberation. Mother Teresa used to say, "We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it."

So, good story telling. Just good stories. But for what? A question was posed to me by a friend, in regards to this book. "Okay, most people would agree this book is great. But the question is, what do we do now?" In other words, how do we do this? How do we experience the things that Shane has experienced? Or at least, what is our response? After all, we're not reading it for entertainment alone.

I may be jumping ahead of our first four chapters here, but I'm going to attempt to answer before I hear Shane's conclusion. Here goes:

I don't think we can experience these things from our vantage point here in suburbia. It's just not possible. What do you think? Am I just not looking hard enough?


jamie said...

I don't think we are to experience the things that Shane experienced, but I think we are to look for our chances to live radically. (Unless of course, we do want to live in the inner city and buy a building with our friends.)
Sometimes, I feel like a crazy person when I suggest ideas. Like living in Phoenix without a car. Or having more than one family under one roof.

Nardrod said...

Nice post Jake. Geographic proximity can be a deterrent, but largely because of the distraction it creates. For me, living in 'suburbia' not only insulates me from the pressing needs of the world, but also distracts me from the truly important things of the Kingdom. Rather than wrestling with these questions, I spend my energy in 'silent competition' with my neighbor.
This 'silent competition' is a new phase I just came up with to supplant the term ’rat race’. Silent competition is the paradigm where we seek comfort and security with our primary energy, leaving our secondary energy to activities that truly matter in the kingdom. In this paradigm, I study stocks and bonds, rather than poverty and systemic evil. I pray for the safety of my family rather than food for the starving…
All this to say that I think that the question your friend asked falls short (sorry friend - no hard feelings:\) because I don’t think that Jesus calls us to a one-and-done type of response. This book should serve to catalyze wild and revolutionary thoughts, while challenging us to re-think our Kingdom lifestyle. What I took away from this book is the simple idea that we are to live ‘missional’ lives wherever we are.
I hope that this book doesn’t cause us to have a bake sale to alleviate poverty (if it does, LIA will accept the donation). Rather, I hope that it ignites a passion to rethink the role we play in this world, while challenging us to shed the insulation and silent competition that bind.
One final thought, perhaps it would be best if we began asking the question of how to be missional in our current context, rather than assuming that we will suddenly become missional in some other context. I continually fall into this trap, so do as I say and not as I do.
Blah. Blah. Blah. I’m done. Love you and miss you guys!

Yard said...

Fantastic comment from the Nard corner. I like the idea of becoming immediately missional, good stuff. Do drop by occasionally, as we value your additions to the conversation.

zride17 said...

Nardrod said "One final thought, perhaps it would be best if we began asking the question of how to be missional in our current context, rather than assuming that we will suddenly become missional in some other context."

What wonderful words. I get caught up in movies sometimes. I'll watch a scene, and be moved. I say to myself: "Why can't I have moments like that?" or "Why can I be more like him?" I usually end up deciding that the difference is the circumstances that I'm in right now. Like I would be different if only I lived in turn of the century Paris and managed to fall in love with a can-can dancer at the Moulin Rougue....then I would experience true love, etc.

If I am a tool now, I will probably be a tool in Uganda. I'm not sure.

Yard said...

" missional in our current context..."

But this is exactly where things get sticky! What is our current context? I'm just not sure it's possible to be really missional, without some adjustment to our context.

If I were to completely leave my context alone, I would be free to delve into the things that Justin suggested were of systemic evil.

It gets kind of semantic at this point. So, let me try another route... What I'm really asking is this: Can I truly remove my mind and spirit from this urban, wealthy context, without moving my physical body? One thing is for sure: I don't feel I've accomplished it yet.

Nardrod said...


You are right. I was only suggesting that it might be better to pursue the question of living missionally now, rather than dismiss the entire concept when for the "if only" to come.

I don't think that any of us are there yet, but even if we were I think that there would still be tension. Unfortunately, I think that there will forever be tension in the Christian life...

Love you guys

Nardrod said...

Z - you are right, you would probably be a tool in Uganda. Ha. Love you man.

Laurie said...

It may be helpful to take a look at how the word "poor" is used in scripture. The Beatitudes in the New Testament were originally spoken in Aramaic, and the word used for "poor" in this context, describes the man who, because he has no earthly resources whatever, puts his whole trust in God. In the Greek, the word for poor, /ptochos/, describes the man who is absolutely destitute. When we combine the semantic domains of the both, we get a definition something like:
"the man who has realised his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God."

Physical poverty becomes a powerful catalyst towards the recognition of one's utter helplessness before God; while material wealth often blinds men to their need. I've seen some of the most deep-in-the-Lord committed believers in my life who are desperately poor, who have recognized their need of God in their destitution. But, there is bleak poverty among the affluent, as well. We who find ourselves in wealthy suburban areas would do well, I think, if this is where the Lord has us, to seek out the spirtually bankrupt individuals who are hiding behind ridiculous comforts and consumerism. Their poverty is just as real and Jesus has a heart for them as well. He did say, however, that it wouldn't be easy for them to understand their need. But, we carry the very "life" they are desperate for, when we offer ourselves as vessels for the Living Lord.
I am always moved by the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler in the gospel of Mark. After the guy tells Jesus that he has kept all the commandments that Jesus mentions to him, the writer of the gospel makes this stunning remark:
"Jesus looked at him, and loved him." I would give everything I have to see what His face looked like. To be so remarkable that an observer took notice of Jesus' expression reveals what intensity must have marked His face.
I've lived among the very poor and the very rich and I've seen deep spiritual poverty in both places. That's the kind of poverty we're addressing, wherever we find it.

Nardrod said...

Well done Laurie.

Yard said...

I like it Laurie. A person suffering from spiritual poverty could be in just as much suffering as one in physical poverty. Unfortunately, though, it's a more elusive devil.

If the host of a virus denies its existence, it's a litter harder to treat. This seems to be the case among most affluent Americans. Denial of an issue.

I guess my frustration with this 'front' in our culture is apparent through these comments. It would be tempting to give up... and so I appreciate the wisdom that has been brought here.

zride17 said...

Things happen that change our perspective. Sometimes it is a thought, or an idea, and sometimes it is the blunt reality of the physically poor and hungry right in front of your face. Maybe things are not that different at all. Maybe the person who can be missional without having to be confronted "physically" with poverty or a lack of wealth, is more blessed.