Eugene Cho posted a link to a Relevant Magazine article on materialism where seven Christian leaders respond to the question of how to follow Jesus in an age that worships mammon. Shane Claiborne’s response struck a chord with my own experience of who I care about and why:
What is enough is defined by our relationship to our neighborâ€”if our neighbor has four cars, then we think we are living simply if we have two cars. If our neighbor doesnâ€™t have water, then two cars is probably too many. We have this command to love our neighbor as ourselves, but I think the great tragedy of our culture is that we are pushed away from suffering, away from poverty to the point that itâ€™s enough if we give a tax-exempt donation or volunteer for a week out of the year. And yet if weâ€™re really in relationship with people who are suffering, that messes with us.
Just last night, I had a conversation with someone who had heard of a ministry need related to Servant Partner’s work in urban slum communities around the world. This individual had felt stirred by God’s spirit, in the context of a relationship, to respond in a way that resources could be freed up to help support a missionary couple in their continued work among the poor. That proximity that Shane describes made the difference in linking this person’s resources with a unique ministry need.
I think about the times I have been made aware of a friend’s need and how natural and easy it is to respond. Those of us with small children here often take care of each other’s kids. When someone is sick, it is a normal thing to offer meals or a trip to the store for Gatorade or medicine. And even when the needs are much greater, we still respond to our friends with generosity and sacrifice.
Just yesterday in the mail I received Whitworth University’s (Doug’s alma mater) alumni magazine that profiled a couple who gave birth to quadruplets this past year and the incredible ways their community of friends from Whitworth have stood by them and joined with them in caring for this generous, but challenging, gift from God. And I think of my own experience of the past year and the ways my community surrounded our family and served us with extraordinary measures of practical care and help. I can also recall situations where we were in deep financial need and friends stepped in with financial gifts that perfectly met our needs. And in smaller measure, Doug and I have done the same for others whose needs have come before us.
I recall the words of a woman writing about her experience in a college ministry that sought to be inclusive of other ethnic groups on campus. She describes the group’s strategies involving special food and music and affinity groupings employed and then says this:
You just need to be a friend – I say.
You donâ€™t need none of that stuff
Youâ€™re being fake
â€“â€“ people always know a fake
â€”â€”Why donâ€™t you try to just be real
Andâ€¦Why is it that you have â€œwhite onlyâ€ friends?
But they just kept on with their trying
Cause no one really wants different friends
I like Shane’s point about proximity, and I think I would add to it my friend’s challenge about whether any of us really want different friends.