Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Move or Not To Move, That is Always the Question

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of downward mobility, mostly because our family is currently praying about this concept as something God is calling us to. As John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, pointed out: Jesus didn't commute from heaven to earth, he made his home here and became one of us. We need to live where we minister, and as a christian can I justify turning my back on the poorer parts of my city? If I really want to live out a life that is increasingly like Jesus, then I have to seriously ponder why I would want to move out further into the suburbs into houses that are disconnected and sheltered from people's suffering, actually from dealing with the reality of people in general. In my journey to be like Christ, shouldn't I rather stay where I am or move to a neighborhood where suffering and daily relationship challenges my reality everyday? I have to question why I would even consider a larger mortgage that would tie up more of our income rather than a smaller one that would free more money for giving.

People ask us how we can all live in such a "small" house and tell us that it's size justifies a move to a larger house. Yet, somehow, we are thriving in a three bedroom house with a "small yard". My kids have to learn to get along as they share bedrooms. We often find ourselves together as we work on different projects -- is that so bad in the long run? There's only one TV viewing place, one computer station. So, we have to agree and work together. Again, is that so terrible? And, our small yard is big enough to house 6 chickens, 6 ducks, 2 dogs, an enormous garden and still have space to play a game of soccer. If this is too small, then at what point do we say enough is enough?

If my identity is really in Christ, then it shouldn't matter how comfortable I am, how nice my neighborhood is, or even, really, how safe I perceive myself to be. In reality I'm only as stable and safe as God provides.

In addition to all my introspective thinking, I have to wonder why Christians in our country allow themselves, on the whole, to be so disconnected from suffering. Where along the way did we begin to align ourselves with comfort? Was it when political tides turned and the Religious Right became a voice of power? While it might have brought about some positive changes, at what cost did it come? And, in light of recent years, were they really positive changes? It strikes me that so much of the church has sold out to the Religious Right that we missed the boat (and really still are missing the boat) on the environment, inclusion, care for the poor, racial reconciliation and class reconciliation. We've been willing to look past those as moral issues because it is "safer" to cling to one political ideology that wants, more than anything, to protect a way of life that is very dear. It is a far scarier thought to admit that in reality there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" (okay, there are the Blagojevichs but they aren't all in one party!) in politics here, only "judgmentally broken guys" and "enabling broken guys", because if we focus on the real moral issues then we can't polarize politically and things might change in ways that we aren't comfortable with.

It's a much "safer" proposition to believe that we all have rights to our own home, our own space, our own stuff and our own money, and much riskier to admit that if you've really given everything over to Christ, then that includes, our home, space, stuff, money and even our safety. It's a much safer version of reality to believe that we are merely a Christian Nation with just a blemish or two in our history, especially if we're a part of the majority people group that isn't directly hurt by those injuries. It's much safer for us to think, "America = Christian" than it is to question what exactly that means in regards to being a Christian. There's an underlying tension between being American and being a Christian: being an American is about protecting our rights, being a Christian is about being willing to lay down our rights.

Yet, if our adoptions have taught me anything it's that God blesses us in suffering. If all we had done was donate to a program for orphans or took a mission trip to visit disabled orphans, I know that I wouldn't have the relationship with Jesus that I now have. Taking on their suffering and making it my own has been fundamental to me learning to depend upon God, and given me an intimacy with Him where He is willing to show me the things that truly break His heart. You trust your acquaintances with things that bring you joy. You trust your cherished friends with your pain. In joining with Him as He suffers over the broken parts of his creation, I've seen parts of his heart and glory I never knew existed. Just visiting or just donating would have been much safer, physically, financially and emotionally. However, going across the line and throwing my lot in with them, taking their suffering, making it part of my life and making it my suffering, that produced beautiful fruit. Fruit that makes everything else so utterly boring and flavorless in comparison.

So wouldn't the same be implied with downward mobility?

And, instead of fearing the truth, isn't it better to come to peace with the fact that America is just another Babylon? Albeit a beautiful one, certainly my favorite one, and one that is always (hopefully) moving towards true political freedom and justice for all. However, if it's Babylon, no matter how beautiful, it can't even begin to compare with the true Kingdom. If we can see that it is not part of the Kingdom of Jesus, then we can work as salt and light to spread his Kingdom here, not afraid of any changes to our country or our status here. We don't need to assume that every citizen is going to agree with our morality or try to force them to agree with us. We can be free to love with no strings attached and free to seek the common good of all our citizens without trying to make them fit into what we think they should be. We can really labor as workers in the Kingdom, lending our educations, stable families, and health to communities that are struggling to stay afloat. As we work in that way, we can do what Jesus wants us to do which is to love people into the Kingdom.

However, if we simply look to our own desires, our own comfort, then how can we really be sold out to Christ? And, if we are the Body of Christ on earth, then how can God heal our country when we're not willing to live where we are not comfortable?

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