Without totally squashing the post prior to this one, there are some issues in settling into tackling living as a Christian in suburbia.
It’s easy to get comfortable. It’s easy to get involved somewhere and think we’re doing our bit. Or to shell out cash to alleviate our guilt and compassion.
I’m not sure how to determine what is a satisfactory level of service or giving. We may have to keep searching and stretching ourselves and taking further risks. I’m inclined to think that it leans well to the later. with our dependence on Jesus our strength – lots of balance and with less selfish emphasis on burnout.
â€œMuch of what I had done before along the lines of service was guilt induced. When I would hear a horrific story, I would want to respond quickly, write a check, and be done with it. But I have met many incredible people who are responding with their lives, and that has exposed something in me. I have been given a lot of joy in life, but Iâ€™ve also missed something. All of my life I have been grooming my faith, but have missed something about the purpose of that grooming. If I understand scripture at all, I have to know that to enter into the suffering of the poor and the oppressed is to know Christ and his suffering.â€
– Sara Groves
How do you find out how to do that in a society where it isn’t always blatantly obvious? Yes there are clear levels of poverty and homeless in Australia, but I feel kind of confused for the incredibly ignored ‘rich’. It is untrue to say that the rich have perfect lives. Where to enter that suffering?
Jesus hung out with tax collectors, right?
The quote that inspired me is from a post over at Radical Womanhood, the rest is really worth reading.
A couple of thoughts…
I completely agree that “the rich” are suffering too, and As you point out, Christ hung out with tax collectors. I’d never promote the kind of theology that sees paid employment as nothing more than evangelising fellow employees, but I’ve regularly had interesting conversations with very wealthy colleagues.
However, I’m not sure that the rich are as ignored as you suggest. I actually think that the radical truth of the Gospel message is getting lost as churches pander to “the rich”…we’re reaching “the rich” in all the wrong ways, pandering to the selfishness of human beings rather than providing the radical truth that people are looking for. The interesting conversations I’ve had with my colleagues usually revolve around things like the meaninglessness of money, the need to connect with “the Other” (particularly the poor), the need to find something beyond consumerism…people are not really looking for comfort, and yet we see big, “successful” churches preaching comfort popping up all over the place.
Finally…I think we need to think really carefully about what it means to be “poor” and “oppressed”, and the sources of poverty and oppression. There is no denying that those with money also have power – they are not “poor” or “oppressed” in the same way as those who live on our streets, or those in detention centres, or the single mothers in housing commission flats. We must not conflate the two, and we must not ever allow mission to “the rich” to be an excuse for not doing anything about “the poor” – and unfortunately, that’s what many Christians do. They go to their nice, middle-to-upper-class church every Sunday, they hang out in their nice, leafy Eastern suburbs (in Melbourne), and they think that their ministering and mission to “the rich” means they don’t need to connect with those who our society pushes to the margins. Yeah, Christ hung out with tax collectors (who were fairly marginalised, although wealthy), but he also touched a bleeding woman…
thanks bec for your thoughts – it’s an interesting one and I think you’re right, much of my frustration does lie in the ‘big comfortable churches’ and the ways we seem to ‘not be hitting the spot’. It’d be an interesting experiment to involve those ‘rich’ in what we’re doing for the ‘poor’ – regardless of religious perspective. There are so many people out there (that’ aren’t necessarily Christian) that just want to do stuff for others. Sharing the reason we know through joint involvement.
thanks al hsu for commenting!