We must never forget that as long as sin and suffering remain, we will find Christ among the broken and the lost. We must never idealize or romanticize the nature of the lifestyle this calls us to, nor the people whom it calls us to love. We must go in with our eyes open to the messy and costly reality of love. In the face of this cost we realize that only with a pure heart can we hope to persevere and truly see the face of God in the other.
-Jamie Arpin-Ricci in The Cost of Community
Is it only just recently that “doing good” for the least of these has been so popular among the Church, or has it always been this way? I read and hear a lot about the call to be among the poor and to feed and care for the orphaned and widowed, and in large part, I agree. But this here, this causes me to apply direct pressure to the breaks, and pull off to the side of the road and think for a moment.
Is it just me or does it seem that here lately there has been quite a loud stirring within the Christian community to draw a lot of attention to all the good that is being done for the least of these? Again, I’m not suggesting that doing good is wrong, but I do question just how loud we ought to be while doing it.
Maybe in an effort to draw more in and expose more to this sort of life or work or experience there has be a sprucing up; a “romanticizing the nature of the lifestyle.” And for what? Why do we serve the poor? Is it because we’re called to be like the one we follow, or do we do it out of some sort of narcissistic need to be hip and cool and trendy with our Christianity/spirituality? Do we do it to assuage our guilt? Why?
God I hope not! I hope that as Christ-followers we’ve not reduced the call to be along side the least of these to nothing more than a fashion statement. But flip the coin and I wonder if serving out of this sort of expression is at least somehow better than not serving at all. Would it not be better to serve with poor motives than to not serve entirely? Which would cause the greatest harm?
I wished I had some answers here, but I don’t. I’m discovering that as I wrestle with this for myself my wrestling is producing more and more questions. I believe that, for me anyhow, I’m left with nothing but the call to get in there and get along the lease of these. That somehow in the working things out, my motives will become more in line with what Jesus calls his followers to. The larger question for me is with whom will I come along side? Where is my group of “least of?” Or who is my “least of?”
Truthfully, I want to pretend as though I’d never started reading this book (The Cost of Community) and other like it. Then it would be far easier to stay within my safe and comfortable Christian-bubble going about my life as though everything was put together and alright. But it’s not all alright. It’s a big ol’ mess out there and I’m called to be in the middle of it. And I know… I know that’s really where the fun is anyway. And I like fun. I mean, who doesn’t right?