Another excerpt from my conversations with Brian, this time regarding how we actually generate the changes that this “new kind of Christianity” talks about.
I think you’ve actually answered the question as well as it can be answered – I think the problem begins and ends with us. It is my responsibility to help the poor, to see the needs around me, and to act on them. On the other hand, it’s the responsibility of people who don’t view all people with equal esteem in the sight of God to change their way of thinking. The hidden point I think we don’t often realize is that in our state of becoming, we are told that we have “one who walks alongside” – a guide, counselor, etc. I think all too often we feel like change is *all* about us, when I think in some measure change is about releasing ourselves to God. I think when we give up the idea that our career is “important” and that our popularity is “important” and that our ________ is “important” – when we release those things, our actions no longer because about driving the career, popularity, and ________ – rather our actions become available to be used by God. Instead, we (and specifically I) all too often adopt the attitude that change is all about my force of will… “I will be more loving. I will be more loving. I WILL be more loving. I WILL BE MORE LOVING…” It doesn’t work very well.
Exactly *how* that process occurs in our lives, and how the Spirit works to effect those changes I really think varies from person to person. I know in my own life I could probably use a lot more prayer asking for change, and reflection daily on what opportunities I passed by, along with what I can do tomorrow.
I don’t think we’ll ever be comfortable “out of our comfort zones”, by definition, but I think, much as you brought up on Monday a couple of weeks ago, that we are never called to be comfortable. I think in many ways for us today, the discomfort we’re called to in many ways may be more intellectual and social than physical – it is highly unlikely that we will ever be “poor”, or unable to put food on the table, or probably even buy whatever we want. It *is* highly likely that we will be uncomfortable when we interact with people of different social status, or give up our time, energy, and effort to go the extra mile and help people even within our own social groups.
I think the final point on service is that we need to be very careful when we “rank” what problems we need to solve. While I certainly believe that Jesus was about elevating the lowest and least, I think there are so many people in all walks of life and all socioeconomic statuses that fit that definition. I believe the “lowest and least” is just as much the 17 year old princess suffering from anorexia as it is the 60 year old Vietnam vet who’s living on the street – I believe each of them needs our help, and while it’s very sexy to focus on the second one, it doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t focus on the first either. Taken farther, I am certain that there are many “lowest and least” people within our own groups, and perhaps even within our own circles of friends – they are no less worthy or deserving of our help – we just assume that because they’re close to us and appear to be all put together that everything is ok.
The answer, though, I think is simple. If I want to look at the problem with Christianity in the world, all I have to do is look in the mirror. The hope, I think, is that Jesus himself encourages us to “be made new” – a process, I think. I’m certainly not to the state of “being”, but I’m a lot farther along the way to becoming than I was 5 years ago, or even 5 months ago. My hope is that I will be able to say the same 5 months and 5 years from now.