Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Community, the poor, either or both and

This past weekend, at the Non Con (or non-conference for the uninitiated), I was confronted with the reality that I don't have many meaningful relationships with poor people. I often advocate for the poor, I practice activism on behalf of the poor and support causes, but I don't take enough time to get to know individuals or to get involved in their lives. It didn't use to be this way when I used to be one of the poor, as opposed to one of the educated lower middle class struggling to hang on to what I've got.

I used to spend a lot of time working with teenagers who'd suffered abuse and neglect. I used to spend time talking with homeless people. Now, I spend more time talking to other people about working with poor people, foster children and the homeless. Clearly, it's not an either/or proposition but a both/and. And if our little community cares for the poor the way Jesus did, than we can't just serve the poor but we need to worship with them as well. They need to be at the center of our community instead of benefiting solely from times of intentional outreach. Ministry (what we do inside the church) need not be separated from Evangelism (what we do outside the church) because they are both part of Mission.

Community can be hard though. It requires a lot of each of us. Maybe the hardest part being that we have to accept others if they are to accept us because if we don't accept them first than we will never be open to allowing them to know us, which is the first step toward acceptance.

"God’s love sets me free to enter into community with other people—even when the community is a very limited one and is not the total communion that my heart desires. Only when I live in communion with God can I live in a community that is not perfect. Only then can I love the other person and create a space in which we might be quite distant or very close, but we can still allow something new to be born—a child, friendship, joy, community, a space where strangers and guests can be received."

- Henri Nouwen
Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center

Thanks to Sojourners Verse and Voice for pointing me to this quote.

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