October 28, 2016

Good Ol' Fashioned Christian Charity

Traditional community organizing training tends to go in one of two directions. Either it addresses the needs of a community or it addresses the assets of a community. When we think about charitable Christian work, we tend to seek out the needs of a community rather than the gifts that a community might have to offer. What we don't want to do is use charity as a buffer between us and communities in need--ensuring that there remain an invisible line between the have's and the have not's. Throughout scripture we see a trend, a trend of seeing God partner with the most unlikely to further God's mission. Most often, these are the least, the lost, the last and the left out. Could it be that the gifts of those in need are intended to change us? Save us?

Every community has needs of some kind. I don't have a problem with good ol' fashioned Christian charity. Please don't hear me discouraging acts of mercy. It is one of the practices followers of Jesus are called to. I'm not advocating that we disengage from charitable work. Rather, I'm wondering if, from time to time, Christians ought to do a gut check: Why are we doing this?

That "gut check" is an act of humility. Humility is exactly what Micah 6:8 hitches to acts of kindness. That passage also hitches justice to the equation as well. And justice implies an equity in relationship that much of our works of kindness, charity and mercy (whatever you label it) do not ensure.

What would it look like to design our service and outreach around equity of relationship and acts of kindness and generosity?

(For some background, I wrote about this from a different angle in the problems v. opportunities post. And Mike Angell and I wrote about this in our blog series.)