Saturday, January 14, 2006

Love is the reason

Love is the reason Jesus treated the sick and the needy with mercy, grace, healing, and a tender touch. He didn't just pat them on their heads and wish them well.

On Mike Cope’s blog (, which I read regularly, I saw a reference to a blog ( Mike said that the author, Steve Holt, is writing “Kingdom” stuff. I looked it up and became immediately involved with his subject for yesterday—he was chewing on how to help those deeply mired in poverty. Apparently, Steve works with the Christian Service Center, a benevolent organization. Steve said this (in part):

I believe the rehabilitation of our societies most downtrodden people also involves deep spiritual direction and support. I am beginning to believe more and more that few aspects, positive or negative, in our lives are disconnected from our spiritual condition. For instance, depression may be a diagnosed clinical condition, but it also is probably a spiritual oppression. The same can be said about poverty and the array of issues that accompany it. If we are going to offer people a “hand-up” rather than simply enabling a lifestyle of poverty, we must begin thinking seriously about each neighbor’s spiritual condition.

Spiritual direction has always been an aspect of the services provided at the Christian Service Center, but Jim Clark and I have begun brainstorming and thinking “outside the box” on ways to make this a more central part of what the CSC offers. For instance, instead of sending our poor neighbors away with a prayer and a Bible, how can we invite neighbors into the radical way of Jesus Christ? How can we more effectively interact “incarnationally” in relation to the spiritual condition of our neighbors who walk in for some food or clothing? What role might prayer or accountability play in such a scenario?

We are beginning to ask such questions at the CSC. From your experience, what input would you have regarding the role of spiritual formation/direction in a traditional benevolence ministry?

I said this in response to Steve's questions and also to the comment somebody else wrote :

I agree that the long-term help comes through long-term relationship. I don't have experience with the kind of ministry you do at CSC, although my town (near Abilene) does, of course, have its poverty-stricken people.

I am thinking about a woman who is as poverty-stricken as anybody I've known; she was in school with my daughter 15-20 years ago, and then I had her in CJC classes. I try to minister to her when I can. And it feels totally inadequate and drop-in-the-bucket-ish. Sometimes I see her walking down the street; if I can, I pick her up and take her where she's trying to go. Then when I take her home, she sits in the car for a while and talks. I have to pray hard not to be bothered by her smell. Once my daughter bought some groceries and left them on her porch anonymously. One summer I contributed to a fund the Baptists had to turn her electricity back on when it had been cut off for nonpayment. I don't know what else to do--I haven't seen her for several months now.

I am always touched by what I read in the Discipleship Journal about being Jesus to people. In issue 125, Walking with the Wounded, the editor points out that “Over and over, Jesus saw
people's hurts and responded with compassionate action . . . . As we follow Him, one of the gifts Jesus gives us is the ability to see the downtrodden through new eyes” (37). Then in an article in that same issue (“Called to Care”), Pat Banta Kreml says we have to be very careful not to snuff out their small hope or break their spirits. She says we must be prepared to “walk in love” with them, not just share a prayer and scripture. Restoration takes time and calls for relationship (42).

So keep on keeping on! I believe your CSC has the “new eyes” to see the needy—through the mind of Christ.

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