Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Helping Your Own

I hit the chapter in The Purpose-Driven Life in which Rick Warren pushes the notion of helping other Christians. There is plenty of scriptural backup for this position; Paul talked constantly about building a strong community of support for fellow believers, as a part of the witness of Christian love. Translation: we can sell the faith a lot easier if there are tangible benefits to being in the club. That mentality has undergirded the growth of the megachurches in general: “Let’s provide daycare and schools and youth groups and singles groups and retiree groups and every other damn thing we can think of, and people will come for all those tangible benefits, but still wind up in the house of the Lord.”

From the perspective of someone who has tried to build intentional communities over the last fifteen years, I understand the necessity of “looking out for your own.” You do need to give special precedence to helping your own people; it’s a basic part of having any cohesion at all as a community. You can’t do much significant work unless you have a lot of people who trust each other to do their respective parts; and the best way to build that trust is by helping each other in all the little things.

And yet . . . what bothers me the most about it is that it is almost diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus himself. Jesus was all about reaching past your community into the larger world. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies . . . For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” Matthew 5:43-46 Jesus had a reputation for hanging out with the sinners, to the point where even his own family was put out with him.

In my own experience, I have felt the greatest sense of grace when I had the opportunity to help someone completely outside my community. When I’ve lectured for a high school class here or there, when there is little or no possibility that anything I’m doing is going to help my own spiritual community – that’s when I feel most sure about the purity of my motive. I think the witness of Mother Theresa to the world is that God’s love was most manifest when it was given to the most wretched, “useless” people of the world. Love is not love unless it is given entirely for its own sake.

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