These days it seems there is significant conversation given to the Christian responsibility to engage, love, befriend, and advocate for the poor. I’m glad the conversation is happening. But this is one of those areas that is really easy to pontificate about and really hard to do. And I’m saying that as someone on the “I don’t do it much” side, not the “I’m awesome and you should be like me side” (that’s the side I’m on when it comes to dunking though). Here are some of the reasons I think it’s so difficult. Agree? Disagree? Have others? Oh, and one clarification–what I’m talking about here is really engaging the poor at as equals made in the image of God, not dishing out some crumbs to people we look down on.
- We live in a geographically segmented society. While this is not as true of some urban centers, we have done a good (bad?) job of constructing our cities (and suburbs in particular) where there is little possibility of regular interaction between social classes. While Jesus did go to the poor, I think he more just sought them out as he went, something we often can’t do. We can do better, but we run in circles of people like us a lot of the time.
- We have a service project mentality. Many of us (sometimes under the leadership of the church, sometimes not) have come to equate interaction with the poor with serving in a soup kitchen (I feel like this has become somewhat cliche even). Doing things like that are good, but I could see myself putting in my time and not really engaging if I wasn’t careful.
- We fill our lives. We live in a society that takes pride in being busy with “important” things. In Denver my brother and a friend went down to a place where a lot of homeless guys hung out at least a couple times a week just to hang out and see what happened. Most of us would have to schedule that three months in advance.
- We like comfort. Let’s be honest, crossing socio-economic lines is uncomfortable because we don’t do it much. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting this, just with using it as an excuse to do nothing.
- We don’t know what to do. I find myself here often. Do I go wander through the poorer neighborhoods in our city? Do I comb the downtown looking for the homeless? Many of the things I listed above lead to this being a strong reality.
Just something I continue to struggle with. An area I want to become more like Jesus.