03 January 2011

More excerpts from Friendship at the Margins

There are few things less attractive than stingy Christians. We serve a generous, lavish God who delights in beauty and diversity, color and aromas. Choosing a simplified, modest lifestyle… means we are choosing creativity over extravagant waste and generosity over covetousness.

“The poorer a person is, old or sick, with a severe mental handicap or close to death, the more the cry is solely for communion and for friendship. The more the heart of the person who hears the cry, and responds to it, is awoken.”
- Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

When we allow ourselves to be disarmed, we become both vulnerable and strong. The only weapons then at our disposal are those of the Spirit. We choose the way of Jesus, laying aside all the earthly resources that give us power – in order to be present to those we love.

Ironically, local church congregations rarely offer the support and accountability needed by those who dwell or minister in the hard places. Most Christians want and expect success stories and clean categories

In friendship, the other person is not seen as a project or needy recipient, but as a fellow traveler. An emphasis on friendship in mission and ministry is closely related to cultivating mutual respect and valuing time spent together, not only because we are serving or helping the other person, but because all of us benefit.

An emphasis on friendship is, in a sense, an effort to round out understandings of love that focus exclusively on self-giving and self-sacrifice. Love certainly involves sacrifice - lots of sacrifice - but it also involves deep relationships, mutual appreciation and communion. An emphasis on friendship is an effort to move us beyond duty-driven views of ministry.

In drawing closer to Jesus, we discover that we cannot love him without loving others… As we love and live among those most likely to be overlooked – those who are poor, hungry, despised, imprisoned, or sick – we find ourselves in intimate relationship with Jesus.

There is no way our friendship with Jesus can remain dynamic and close, however, unless we take time to be with him in worship and reflection… Friendship with Jesus involves being in his presence, taking time to know him.

Love is not a scarce commodity we need to ration in case we run out. Friendship with the source of love guarantees that we will have ample supply.

When we love someone it is hard to hold on to what we have when we know it would meet a real need they face… If we hold onto our possessions tightly or define ourselves by them, it costs us deeply in freedom and friendship… All of us need to be careful of excess, and some of us, in order to live alongside those who have little, will choose a very simplified lifestyle.

If we live in comfortable circumstances, we need to make decisions to plant one foot in another world… Putting ourselves in places where people on the margins can find us involves slowing down, taking time to be where people can befriend us, and taking risks to be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Sharing life with those who are grateful for the most basic things in the midst of their ongoing difficulties challenges us and our more comfortable communities to reflect deeply on what we often take for granted - God’s goodness and provision.

Live-giving ministry flows from lives that are full of gratitude to God, not with an expectation of gratitude from others.

And in conclusion…

At the heart of mission is friendship.

The book was written by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl. I hope that the quotes will encourage and challenge you! I find that they fit exactly with what God has me doing here in Kenya. Perhaps you can use them as you pray for me in that regard. Thanks, by the way, for upholding me in prayer!

[Note - I quoted excerpts from the first half of the book in my October prayer letter, if you want to refresh your memory.]

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